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.

Grammar Schools

I've been thinking of doing a post on Grammar Schools and as I have five minutes I thought I'd go for it. In 1970 (or whatever year it was) I sat the 11 plus. I have the vaguest memories of it. Some kid had seen the chairs and desks were arranged differently (I think we did it in the classroom not the hall - I can't remember if there was more than one separate session). My parents had spoken about it to me and my mother had bought me non-verbal reasoning tests so I was familiar with them. Up until that point I had always wondered if I was thick or clever (I then held to the theory that everyone is one or the other). My confusion arises from being quite good with words but hopeless with numbers.
Once I passed the 11-plus and got to the school of my choice I was confirmed in my notion that I was actually bright. I remember my mother's delight that I had done so well. I remember the post coming and making the choice from Croesyceiliog, our local, West Mon (boys only) and Abersychan (so far up the valley I'd never been there - and they wore brown uniforms). The choice was not hard as I had no wish to travel on a bus daily. I did get my first choice but what we seemed to be unaware of was that Croesy would no longer be a Grammar by the time I got there. I do remember being treated like a Grammar kid at the beginning, however. We were left in no doubt that we were special, and considering there were kids from as far up the valley as Blaenavon it was believable.
I pretty much remember which school most of my class and the one next door went to, even kids I never saw again. A lot is made of how damaging it is to label kids failures at the tender age of 11. In my case the problem was labelling me clever when in fact I was pretty average. I worked it out, eventually, of course.
The basic flaw with the Grammar idea is that you cannot take a child at 11 and know what sort of career lies ahead for it. It's nonsense. I'm not a strong advocate of Comprehensives but for most of us that is the most likely way to make progress.

The Blue Flower

Having read and enjoyed Penelope Fitzgerald's The bookshop I remembered that I once owned her Blue Flower although I'd not read it. So on to the Internet and a new copy - foolishly I wanted the cover as above. Anyway it added to the pleasure. The Blue Flower tells a story from the early life of the German poet Novalis. I could tell you the plot, insubstantial as it is, but that was not where the pleasure lay. This is one of those novels where the fun is in the brilliant way that she inhabits her characters and brings them alive in a way that draws you in and makes you so familiar with them they are real (as in this case they were, but you know what I mean). It is quite a skill and when you out a book like that down it is like the end of a great symphony. You feel some sort of echo lingering after it, There aren't many books in that league. Anyway I'm now reading a non-fiction piece she wrote on her father Edward Knox and his three brothers. I actually became aware of this when I saw it footnoted in Iain Murray's biography of Ryle. 

Wednesday September 28 2016

Nine of us were present last night (four men, five women, including one lady we don't see very often). I have been preparing six messages for pastors in South Africa (I'm en route there as I write) so I thought one might suit for our midweek meeting. I chose the one on the pastor as preacher of Law and Gospel. I hope it was helpful and will be. I've been reading Sinclair Ferguson's book on the whole Christ today and thinking how much more nuanced I should have been/will need to be. Anyway, I think the message was appreciated and we had a good long time to pray, nearly everyone leading in prayer. Saying goodbye to three young women this week off to Uni, etc. Anyway I'm in Dubai as I write (the modern world, eh?) and I have limited wi-fi so I'll try and get this off now. Very much looking forward to these APCs in Estcourt, Queenstown, East London and Bloemfontein and two Sundays preaching in churches. Do pray.

Great Conference at the Evangelical Library

We had a great conference at the Evangelical Library last Monday. This year is the 400th anniversary of the birth of the great John Owen and I and others thought it would be good to have a conference specifically on reading John Owen's voluminous writings.
I was able to persuade Nigel Graham to give an autobiographical introduction (masterfully done and with time to spare) and Jeremy Walker, Robert Strivens, Guy Davies and myself to make four presentations covering the 16 volumes of Owen's Works as published by the Banner of Truth. (It was only at the conference that I noticed I'd chosen all Baptists, which was rather unthought through). I thought that everyone (perhaps excepting myself) got on remarkably well. The men were able to pick out individual works and interesting theme and present them in a useful and interesting way. In a more pedestrian manner I simply worked my way through commenting on the larger and more minor works in in Volumes 9-12.
Of course, the question all along has been whether anyone wanted to part with their money and come listen. In the end I think we were around the 25 mark and people seem to have felt it worthwhile. We had a good discussion at the end of the day on various things including the pros and cons of abridgements. I was under the impression that R K Law who has made several abridgements was no longer with us but that appears to be wrong.
So a big thank you to the men who spoke, those who came, the Library staff who provided hot drinks and especially to Dr Ian Densham who kindly recorded the whole thing in audio and video. Do contact the Library for details of these recordings and their availability.
I would also like to publish the papers in written form so do watch this space.

God's not dead 2

This new release from Pure Flix directed by Harold Cronk is a very watchable court room drama with high production values and excellent acting. With great skill a number of themes have been woven together in order to provide what is both an enjoyable movie and a thought provoking piece of Christian apologetics.
Reflecting on more than twenty cases against Christians that have gone through the American court system in recent years, it presents us with the fictional case of a state school teacher (Melissa Joan Hart) who runs into trouble when she talks about Jesus in the classroom. The court room provides the opportunity to have the apologists Lee Strobel and former homicide detective J Warner Wallace take the stand as expert witnesses. We also have brief cameos from Gary Habermas and Rice Brooks on a show with Senator Mike Huckabee.
On the matter of cameos and similar elements, older viewers will no doubt appreciate the role played by Pat Boone, now 82 years old, and may be younger viewers will appreciate the presence of rock band Newsboys who perform the song My God's not dead.
As a product of the Arminian decisionistic-tending side of evangelicalism, thoroughly committed to evidentialist apologetics, the film makes as strong a case for Christ as one can imagine.
As for it making a dent in the world it is aimed at, Rotten Tomatoes described it, not entirely unfairly, as “Every bit the proselytizing lecture promised by its title, God's Not Dead 2 preaches ham-fistedly to its paranoid conservative choir” while Bill Zwecker of the Chicago Sun-Times felt that while the underlying issues presented in the film are relevant in today's world, it lacks subtlety and “comes off as a two-hour, jazzed-up movie version of a sermon.”
As for the idea that Christians are not really under pressure in the public square, that is certainly not the case. It may be that this film will do most good in raising awareness among professing Christians of such issues.
This article or something similar is in the current edition of Evangelical Times

Our Boys

We all met up in Cardiff last Saturday for Gwïon's eighteenth. I was keen to have our five boys snapped together, something that we haven't done for a while.
Eleri obliged as I'm not great with a camera. I love them to bits. God is so good.

Lord's Day September 25 2016

I'm behind with this as I was at a conference most of the day yesterday at the Evangelical Library. It was a good day Sunday I guess, however, although attendance in the evening was pretty low. I spoke from Galatians again in the morning. It is so full of gospel, it is almost inevitably very refreshing. In the evening we looked at the rest of Matthew 10 and considered further principles of discipleship (including taking up the cross another fundamental matter). I was fairly discouraged by the end of the day by the general lack of progress in the work here. Very few with a real interest in the gospel were present, several were away or will be leaving us soon. Even with some of our own members I wonder if I'm getting through. I question my own level of genuine commitment too. It is always difficult to know when it is right to be discouraged. If it is, it must lead to a fresh leaning on the Lord.

Prayer - Drawing near

In Hebrews 4:14-16 the writer says Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 10:19-22 is similar. There the writer says Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
In Hebrews 7:19 we have the phrase a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God and 7:25 talks about those who come or draw near to God through him (Christ) and 10:1 those who draw near to worship.
In James 4:8 there is a well known verse that says Come or draw near to God and he will draw come near to you.
Here is a way of speaking about prayer then – coming or drawing near to God.

1. Prayer involves movement or change
The very fact that prayer is spoken of as coming to or drawing near shows that we cannot pray simply by staying as we are. There must be a movement, a change, a drawing near to God. We need to move from where we are. We need to stir ourselves up to action. This movement is clearly a spiritual movement or change nor a physical one.
2. We are responsible to move
In all the references it is clear that we are responsible to move towards God not just him to us. Now James does say Come or draw near to God and he will draw come near to you. That is there to encourage us. Only a little effort is needed and God will do the rest. We must bear our responsibilities, nevertheless.
3. Our prayers must centre on God
Perhaps this is too obvious to need saying but we need to draw near to God. God must be the object of our prayers. We must focus on him. We must seek his face. To set our minds anywhere else is to fail to pray.

Let's draw near to God.

Prayer - Lifting up the soul

In Psalm 25:1 David says In you, LORD my God, I put my trust. He uses a similar phrase in Psalm 84:4 Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you and in Psalm 143:8 Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. More literally in each place he is talking about lifting his soul to God. The same idea is in Lamentations 3:41 Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven, and say: …. Hannah uses a different idiom when she says (1 Samuel 1:15) I was pouring out my soul to the LORD.
To you I lift up my soul and similar phrases say at least three things about prayer.
1. Prayer is a spiritual affair – it is a soul matter
The use of the word soul (an heart elsewhere) suggests that we are talking about an essentially spiritual matter. When we talk of our souls we are talking about us, the essential us, the essential me. Merely saying prayers is a waste of time. That is one reason why written prayers rarely work. If you write it out yourself that is a but different I guess but merely to read prayers is a sure fire way to make it unlikely that you will be lifting up your soul.
2. Prayer is our responsibility – I must do it
The phrase is To you I lift up my soul. There is no suggestion of God lifting up our souls for us. This is not to deny that we need help from on high if we are to pray but there is a responsibility on us to lift our souls to God and not simply wait for him to do it for us.
I remember hearing Eric Alexander speaking about prayer once. He put it this way We're not to wait until we get a tingle in our spine. It's a matter of moral obedience and duty. It is not a glandular condition where one does not pray until he feels like it”.
No, with prayer we simply have to get on to it.
3. Prayer involves effort – it is hard work
That leads on to the last point. It takes effort. I know the soul weighs nothing and so lifting it to God should not be difficult but sometimes it seems my soul is very heavy and lifting even an inch is hard work. Lift it up though. Pour it out. That's what it is to pray. That effort makes all the difference.

Midweek Meeting, September 21 2016

Midweek meeting was a little bit different this week. We are having a week of prayer meetings. We had the first one on Tuesday morning when four of us gathered to pray and this was the second. We have a members meeting on Thursday and we will try to spend time in prayer then. There will also be prayer meetings for three days after that. I think a week of prayer is a good means of reminding us of the imprtance of prayer adn getting us all re-focussed. I spoke very briefly on lifting our souls to God.

Lord's Day September 19 2016

I preached yesterday on Galatians 1:11-2:10 and on the next part of Matthew 10, from verse 16. There was communion in the evening. I preached on the Galatians passage years ago. I'm not sure what I said but I felt like I'd got hold of Paul's point this time - the supernatural or divine origin of the gospel. I'd never really seen Paul as so significant in confirming this fact. With Matthew I drew out eight principles for today. There were lots of encouragements with visits from London Seminary people and a colleague in the ministry and his wife in London for the morning. A Polish lady who promised to come again actually did - always encouraging. We started with our Sunday School on the church. Numbers were down a bit but we'll press on with one more next Sunday before I am away for two Sundays.

10 More Animal Similes

1. As quiet as a mouse
2. As sick as a dog
3. As slippery as an eel
4. As slow as a snail
5. As strong as an ox
6. As stubborn as a mule
7. As high a kite
8. As greedy as a pig
9. As black as a raven
10. As a mad as a (March) hare

10 Animal Similes

1. As hungry as a horse
2. As dead as a dodo
3. As bold as a lion
4. As happy as a lark
5. As sly as a fox
6. As busy as a bee
7. As free as a bird
8. As playful as a kitten
9. As wise as an owl
10. As proud as a peacock

Another bit of Rev Gary Davis

Give me a heart to love
Unto that home, that home above
Give me the mind to go all of the way.
Give me a firm heart to pray,
Helping some soul each day,
Give me a voice to sing my prayer.

Give me a heart to love
Unto that home, that home above
Give me the mind to go all of the way.
Give me a firm heart to pray,
Helping some soul each day,
Give me a voice to sing my prayer.

Give me a help-ing hand
That I may firm, the firmer stand,
Give me the prayers of the Lord every day.
Give me that saving power,
Filling me every, every hour
Give me the strength for all of my way.

Give me a heart to love
Unto that home, that home above
Give me the mind to go all of the way.
Give me a firm heart to pray,
Helping some soul each day,
Give me a voice to sing my prayer.

Give me a might to do,
As long as my strength endure,
Give me a heart to be honest and true.
Give me a song to sing,
Praising my hol- , the holy name,
Give me a life to live for you

Give me a heart to love
Unto that home, that home above
Give me the mind to go all of the way.
Give me a firm heart to pray,
Helping some soul each day,
Give me a voice to sing my prayer.

(The original Youtube video is no longer there though you cn hear the song -

A brief trip to Yorkshire

I'm on my way back to London after preaching last night in Thornhill for the Pennine Bible Witness. I've been looked after very kindly and was glad of the opportunity to be in this part of the country once again. I decided to preach on faith from Matthew's Gospel, looking at three incidents in Chapters 8, 9 and 15 (the centurion and his servant, the Canaanite woman  and her daughter and the woman with the issue of blood). I had been concerned that that might have been too much but in fact it was about right and seemed to have been appreciated by the fifty or so who gathered, mostly people I don't know, though there were some familiar faces. I notice from the blog that I was last there in December 2007. This time I stayed with the Lavers who I know through Grace Magazine. The marmalade lady was not able to be there but there was a bookstall and I picked up two books on church history. Once again, someone very kindly stepped in and paid for my purchase. What kind folk.

The Hollies 50 years ago

Midweek Meeting September 14 2016

There were twelve of us out last night as we carried on through 2 Timothy 4, looking at the next three verses (3-5). These cautious verses acted as a good balance to last week's more optimistic message. There seemed to be loads of things to pray for and we couldn't get through all of it but we made a start. I probably should have allowed a bit more time for prayer.

Rev Gary Davis in fine form

Fascinating bit of footage featuring the Rev Gary Davis (and Pete Seeger on banjo).

Two more short quotations from the conference

The provision of this mediator of the New Testament, is the greatest effect of the infinite wisdom, love, and grace of God. This is the centre of his eternal counsels. In the womb of this one mercy, all others are contained. Herein will he be glorified to eternity.
John Owen (Hebrews)

There is one peculiarity which distinguishes Paul from the other sacred writers - his habit of giving set dissertations on doctrinal subjects. It is apparent also, from his writings, that he never takes up a doctrinal subject for the mere pleasure of theoretic discussion; but is always compelled to do this, by the exigencies of the church; particularly, by the assaults made on the Christian faith by false teachers.
James Gray (I think this is the correct source)

John Owen Centre Annual Conference 2016 Day 2

Apologies for the delay with this final report. On our second day we had another three speakers. Personally, I felt that as we moved away from the subject of Melchizedek a little something was lost perhaps. Anyway we had three excellent messages, all worth hearing. First, Benedict Bird spoke on Owen on the Priesthood of Christ. Very clear and helpful. There was a lot of discussion but we were perhaps not well verses in the subject enough to take the discussion very far.
Benedict's outline was as follows
1 To what extent was the priesthood of Christ a major focus in his work?
2 Why was Christ's priesthood a major focus?
3 How was his teaching distinctive?
i Appointment in eternity
ii Preincarnation revelation of the priesthood
iii From the incarnation to the cross humiliation and oblation
iv From resurrection to session exaltation and intercession
v From second coming to eternity when he is priest no longer
4 What did Owen have to say about Melchizedek in particular?
Then in the afternoon Andrew Kerr from Northern Ireland spoke on Christ's kingly office.  This subject tends to be given to the Scots and Irish and our speaker proved to be very much at home with his subject. Despite his affable and self effacing style he proved to be more than competent. This was partly a disadvantage as his power point presentation confronted us with quote after quote, chart after chart, etc. One of many documents he drew on was William Roberts' Reformed Presbyterian Catechism of 1853, a very interesting document available online. The real issue here is no doubt how it all works out and this was not something we could really get on to.
As is the tradition, the conference finished with a Baptist tasked with seeking to draw out some practical uses. Jeremy Walker reminded us that our study
1. Should bring before us the claims of Christ's person
2. Show us what is the character of his ambassadors
3. Encourage us to hear the call of his heralds
4. And know the comfort of his offices

Pascal Quote

Garry Williams gave us this quotation from Blaise Pascal on original sin
It is, however, an astonishing thing that the mystery furthest removed from our knowledge, namely, that of the transmission of sin, should be a fact without which we can have no knowledge of ourselves. For it is beyond doubt that there is nothing which more shocks our reason than to say that the sin of the first man has rendered guilty those, who, being so removed from this source, seem incapable of participation in it. This transmission does not only seem to us impossible, it seems also very unjust. For what is more contrary to the rules of our miserable justice than to damn eternally an infant incapable of will, for a sin wherein he seems to have so little a share, that it was committed six thousand years before he was in existence? Certainly nothing offends us more rudely than this doctrine; and yet, without this mystery, the most incomprehensible of all, we are incomprehensible to ourselves. The knot of our condition takes its twists and turns in this abyss, so that man is more inconceivable without this mystery than this mystery is inconceivable to man.

Owen Quote

Flavien began with this quotation from John Owen yesterday
In Order unto the End mentioned, the Apostle in the first place declares, that Antecedently unto the giving of the Law, and the Institution of the Levitical Priesthood thereby, God had, without any Respect thereunto, given a Typical praefiguration of this Priesthood of Christ, in one who was on all Accounts Superiour unto the Levitical Priests, when they were afterwards introduced. This Sacred Truth which had been hid for so many Ages in the Church, and which undeniably manifests the certain future Introduction of another and a better Priesthood, is here brought to light, and improved by the Apostle. As Life and Immortality, so all Spiritual Truth, was brought to light by the Gospel, [2 Tim. 1. 10] Truth was stored up in the Prophecies, Promises, and Institutions of the Old Testament; but so stored up, as it was in a great measure hidden also; but was brought forth to light, and made manifest in the Gospel. For whereas it is said, that the great Mystery of the manifold Wisdom of God, was hidden in him from the beginning of the World, [Ephes. 3. 9, 10]. The meaning is not, that it was so hid in the Will and purpose of God, as that he had made no intimation of it; for he had done so variously from the Foundation of the World, or the giving of the first Promise: But he had so laid it up, and stored it in his Sacred Revelation, as it was much hid from the Understanding of the best of Men in all Ages, untill it was Display∣ed and brought forth to light by the Gospel, [Psal. 49. 4. 78. 2] And all that Glorious Evidence of the Grace of God which now appears unto us in the Writings of the Old Testament, is from a Reflection of light upon them from the New Testament, or the Revelation of God by Jesus Christ. And therefore the whole Church of the Jews, although they were in the entire possession of those Writings of the Old Testament for so many Ages, never understood so much of the Mystery of the Will and Grace of God declared in them, as every ordinary Believer under the Gospel is enabled to do. And if We have the Privilege and Advantage of those Oracles of God which were committed to them, incomparably above what They attained unto, certainly greater Measures of Holiness, and greater Fruitfulness in Obedience, are expected from us than from them.
Hebrews Volume 5

John Owen Centre Annual Conference 2016 Day 1

Over fifty men gathered yesterday at the John Owen Centre in Finchley to consider the Old Testament figure Melchizedek. This first day was very much an in house affair with new boy Flavien Pardigon giving two sessions, first on the passages in Genesis, Psalm 110 and Hebrews that refer to the priest king, and then on the matter of hermeneutics more generally, in light of the way the subsequent writers make use of the Genesis material. Monsieur Pardigon is an engaging speaker with a straightforward style but (as he himself admitted) little grasp of time (I notice he spends a lot of time in Africa). What he had to say was helpful, although I did not think he needed to be disparaging about the grammatico-historical method. It seemed to me that was the approach he was using - but I may have misunderstood. The final session of the day was led by Garry Williams, Director of the Centre. He took us back to the matter of original sin, which arises from the writer to the Hebrews' comments on Levi being in Abraham's loins, as it were. Garry looked at Shedd and Hodge, examples of two extremes on this matter - Shedd at the Traducian end and Hodge at the federal. With John Murray he argued for a more tempered view. I must admit I got bit lost at some point. Anyway a good day. Perhaps we could have had more discussion but it was good to meet friends old and new adn set one's mind on Scripture afresh. Looking forward to today.

Lord's Day, September 8 2016

It was good to be back in harness yesterday. We kicked off with the first of a series of all age Sunday Schools and I was very encouraged that there were five of us present. We are looking at the subject of the church, using the 1966 Affirmation of Faith. I then preached on Galatians 1:1-10. I had started on Nehemiah before the summer and got to Chapter 4 but I felt we needed something different to that. Lots of people away again for various reasons. We managed to have lunch together, however, and though we were not a large number, it went off very well. We were quite a few less in the evening but not too bad. I preached from the first 10 verses of Matthew 10 and the sending out of the Apostles. I was a little longer than usual. Providentially, there were a good number of Dutch people present. Not only were there seven people from the two families who have just started at the Seminary but a lady I had not seen before sat at the back and she turned out to be from Amsterdam (one of my deacons is also half Dutch!). A Polish visitor also returned after having been in Poland for much of the summer. So all in all a good and enjoyable day.

Yorkshire - Think on't

Atgofion Cader Idris

Midweek meeting, September 7, 2016

Bit behind with this sorry. One or two missing but great that ten of us were able to gather on Wednesday and pray and here the Word preached from 2 Timothy 4:1, 2 - yes, now into the last chapter at last. I made some pretty simple points from the text, stuff we know but need to be reminded of. Everyone prayed including one of the new students at the London Seminary. It's one of my sons's last meetings before heading off to college afresh. Looking forward to the new term.

10 Animal dangers

Just one more list from George Orwell. He also reminisces on how dangerous various animals were. He again gives about six which we have supplemented.

1. Horses (and dogs) bite (and kick)
2. Bats get in your hair
3. Earwigs get in your ears (another myth I understand)
4. Swans break your legs or arms (highly unlikely)
5. Bulls toss you
6. Snakes poison you
7. Wasps and bees and spiders sting
8. Cats scratch
9. Seagulls peck
10. Crabs nip

10 Things said to be bad for you

Looking for inspiration to Orwell's Coming up for air once again, he has a list of six things his mother would always tell him were bad for him. It's the basis for this current list.

1. Raw potatoes are poisonous (apparently they are unlikely to kill you but it's not recommended)
2. Raw gooseberries give you colic and raw raspberries a skinrash
3. Swimming after meal causes stomach cramps (Orwell has having a bath)
4. A cut between the thumb and forefinger gives you lockjaw (my mother passed on this myth to me - untrue although that area is a likely one for tetanus if you do cut it)
5. Sweets are bad for your teeth (true if you don't clean them pretty soon)
6. Eating between meals is bad for you
7. Not drying properly will give you a yeast infection
8. Wearing unaired clothes or going out with wet hair will give you a cold (another favourite axiom with my mam)
9. Egg shells or water used to boil eggs will give you warts
10. If you swallow chewing gum it just stays there (apparently not)

Things seen (and heard)

So I'm taking a coffee, as I do, and in come a man and his son (about 12) and sit on one of the sofas. The father orders something but the main topic is getting a speech onto the laptop. The speech has been written but the father wants to do some tweeking, quite a lot of tweeking as it turns out. I assumed the father was Eastern European at first but I guess he was Israeli. The speech is for the boy's Barmitzvah and not only is there no secrecy or diffidence on the man's part, he is quite brazen not only about getting the son to completely rearrange the speech but to include whole sections he dictates, including one where the son has to say how blessed he is to have such brilliant great grandparents, grandparents and, you guessed it, parents too! What I liked best was the son's complete co-operation - not a murmur of complaint and yet no meek acceptance either, really - just a "this is a rite of passage I have to go through. This too will pass."


I saw this in a car park in the summer. It reminded me of my sister-in-law.
Get Glyn to buy it next birthday.


Moldova may be ranked 165th in the world but 4-0 is still a great scoreline.

London Seminary

Readers of this blog may well be interested to see the newly revamped website of the London Seminary. The relaunch has been made in the interests of clarity and connecting with the Christian public.

Lord's Day, September 4, 2016

Having been in Aber for the induction we stayed over for the morning service when Rhodri took his first meeting as pastor. He preached on Isaiah 55:1, 2 and spoke to the children from Romans 1:20. I thoroughly enjoyed it not only for Rhodri's sake and the congregation's but for the way it seemed to fill me with new energy as I start again here next week. What a wonderful (yet impossible) thing the Christian ministry is.
A large number of us had food downstairs afterwards. We then headed off back to London as the kids were back in chool today. We took a sermon with us. It was Olawale Akinrogunde preaching in Childs Hill on August 7 on Peace be still. See here to hear it. Great stuff too. That seminary is serving us well.

Rhodri's ordination and induction

It was a massive joy to be there in Aberystwyth last Saturday as my oldest son, Rhodri, was ordained and inducted to the pastorate. As he revealed in his side of the history of the call (more an apologia for the call than anything else - church elder Ian Jones spoke for the church) I have always said to the boys, hopefully you will be ministers but not if you aren't called.
About 200 must have been present, some having travelled a long way, and it was great to see everyone. Robert Strivens chaired and David Green preached (from Deuteronomy 6). I read, Geoff prayed and John Noble, one of the other elders at AP spoke too. Just great.
Lovely tea after too, of course.

Final EMW Article on 1 Thessalonians

This is a version of the final article on 1 Thessalonians, available in the current Evangelical Magazine under the heading Right attitudes

The final part of 1 Thessalonians can be divided into three. In verses 16-22 contains a series of exhortations. Before that, Paul is concerned that the Thessalonians should have right attitudes to each other. After that, Paul gives his final commands, blessings and requests.

Attitudes to fellow believers
Many churches today are small but if they are united that is something positive. Paul talks in verses 12-15 first of having the right attitude to leaders, then to all.
Leaders Paul refers to leaders as Those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. They are hard workers who have the right to be in authority over others and admonish or counsel people – literally, put sense into them!
Paul asks for two things with respect to leaders - respect or acknowledgement. Listen to them, appreciate them, try to please them. More than that, Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Do not criticise them behind their backs, ignore what they say or take it with a pinch of salt. Take it seriously. Believe it. Act on it. One writer says “We need wise leadership today, but still more wise following. An army of captains and colonels never won a battle.”
One and another Paul goes on to say that we must live in peace with each other. The New Testament often calls for peace. See for example Ephesians 4:3. He speaks of three different types of church member (the idle, the timid and the weak) and our duty to each. This is far from exhaustive but these are typical problems. We are not all the same. Each must be dealt with appropriately. The idle or unruly must be warned. The timid must be encouraged. This will not always be easy so we need to be patient with everyone. In verse 15 Paul warns against a spirit of revenge and urges kindness to all. 
Spurgeon once sent a very brief letter to a man. “Bear. Bear. Bear. Forbear. Forbear. Forbear. In yielding is victory. Fight the devil and love the deacon - Love him till he is loveable.” That is the approach.

Do's and don'ts
Verses 16-22 are a little like when a preacher is short of time and says “I've no more time. I'll just give the heads.” Here are six brief exhortations vital to remember always.
Be joyful always Eleanor H Porter's Pollyanna says of her minister father that he would not have remained a minister “if 'twasn't for the rejoicing texts.” She elucidates “Of course the Bible didn't name 'em that. But it's all those that begin 'Be glad in the Lord,' or 'Rejoice greatly,' ... and all that, you know - such a lot of 'em. Once … he counted 'em. There were eight hundred of 'em.” There may not be eight hundred but that sounds about right. All are there to keep us rejoicing.
Pray continually In his Institutes Calvin calls prayer the chief exercise of faith. Certainly, if we are real Christians, we will pray. It is impossible live the Christian life without praying. Here Paul calls for continual prayer. Obviously this does not mean that we do nothing but pray but it does mean that we continually turn back to prayer.
Give thanks in all circumstances How easy it is to forget this. We must not.
Do not put out the Spirit's fire Scripture uses different symbols for the Holy Spirit. One is fire so by analogy when he is at work it is as if fire is burning. Burning fire can be put out by various means. That is the picture here. You are not to put out the Spirit's fire Paul warns. In those days that would have included fresh prophecy; today, prayer, preaching, evangelism and Spirit prompted acts of love. When people are stirred up regarding these things we are not to quench the flame.
Never treat preaching with contempt Verse 20 narrows down to a particular offence. There are no prophecies of a New Testament sort today but we have preaching and a believer may show contempt towards it or treat it as of no consequence. He may fail to see what a vital tool it is to bring sinners to faith and build up believers. Paul says to such not to treat preaching with contempt.
Test everything, holding on to the good and rejecting all evil What if it is not the Spirit setting things on fire? What if the prophecy is false, the preaching in error? Everything needs to be tested then dealt with appropriately. This attitude is commended everywhere in Scripture.

Final words
Paul closes with five sorts of words.
Prayers for sanctification - May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through and in a parallel prayer May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The story is told of a girl who came to faith and applied for church membership. "Were you a sinner before the Lord Jesus came into your life?" enquired an old deacon. "Yes, sir," she replied. "Well, are you still a sinner?" "To tell the truth, I feel I'm a greater sinner than ever." "Then what real change have you experienced?" "I don't quite know how to explain" she said, "except I used to be a sinner running after sin, but now I'm a sinner running from sin!" She was received into the church, and proved by her consistent life that she was truly converted.
A reassuring promise Verse 24 says The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. This follows on from Paul's prayers for their sanctification and preservation. Paul is confident his prayers will be answered because he knows that the one he is praying to is the one who called the Thessalonians to himself in the first place and he is not a God who begins things then leaves them incomplete.
A request for prayer With his prayers for them, Paul appropriately makes his own prayer request, Brothers, pray for us. Romans 15:30 is similar. If the Apostle felt in need of prayer so should every minister. If he wanted the Thessalonians to pray, it is right that every Christian should pray for ministers.
Two commands – to give greetings and about public reading A kiss was the normal way of greeting as it is in most countries today, except Germanised ones like the UK, where hands are shaken. Holy points to the need to avoid any sexual element. Paul also commands that his letter be read publicly and that there be an exchange of letters with the Laodiceans. Even at the time of writing Paul thought of his words as authoritative. It is right that we continue the tradition and read this letter and others like it in public so that all may hear its contents.
A benediction of grace Paul finishes the whole letter with a benediction (28) The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Someone confronted Luther about justification, with the remark, "If this is true, a person could simply live as he pleased!" "Indeed!" answered Luther "Now, what pleases you?" Augustine, the great preacher of grace during the fourth and fifth centuries, lacked the fine-tuned precision of the Reformers, but his response on this point was similar to Luther's. He said that the doctrine of justification led to the maxim, "Love God and do as you please." That is grace.

Curious fact

I bought a republished book the other day, Mammon by John Harris. It tickled me to learn of its origin, as presented here in The Church of England Magazine for 1836.
Mammon; or, Covetousness the Sin of the Christian Church. By the Rev. John Harris. London, Ward and Co. 1836. 
The review begins ...
About a year and a half ago, a notice was widely circulated, to the effect that Dr. Conquest, of Finsbury Square, proposed conferring a prize of one hundred guineas upon the author of the best essay on the sin of covetousness. The Hon. and Rev. Baptist Noel and Dr. Pye Smith were appointed by the donor adjudicators of this prize; and after examining 143 essays —for so many were sent in—they pronounced the one before us the successful composition. Mr. Harris, therefore, appears before the public under most favourable auspices; so that we are not surprised to find that his work has already had an extensive circulation. ....
It's hard to imagine Dr Conquest didn't have his tongue in his cheek or something like that. Perhaps I'm just too cynical.

Listening sticks

I was on the streets of Skipton, on holiday, last week and I saw something I had never seen before. Men from the waterboard were putting rods down drains and listening in to the wooden diabolo shapes at the end. I asked what they were doing, having never seen such a thing, and they kindly explained that they were listening for leaks in the pipeline. People often use electronic ones these days but the old fashioned acoustic ones are obviously still being used by some.

10 items to collect on a fool's errand

Also in Orwell's Coming up for air is a list of items for a fool's errand (new apprentices, etc). He only gives four examples. I start with his and then add others.
1. Ha'porth worth of penny stamps
2. Rubber hammer (my dad was sent for one of these and actually got one as they do exist, a glass hammer is a better alternative)
3. Left-handed screwdriver (or hammer or spanner)
4. Striped paint (also available in tartan)
5. A new bubble for the spirit level
6. Sparks for the grinder
7. Bucket of steam
8. Straight hook
9. Long weight/wait
10. Skirting board ladder
(Bags for a Dyson is more modern; sky hooks is an old one)

10 names for coarse fish

I found this list in George Orwell's Coming up for air. Coarse fish are any freshwater fish apart from salmon or trout. (I know nothing about fishing but I tried this question on my wife's brother-in-law and he came up with the same names unprompted).
1. Roach
2. Rudd
3. Dace
4. Barbel
5. Bream
6. Gudgeon
7. Pike
8. Chub
9. Carp
10. Tench
(Orwell also has Bleak, the one my relative failed to get at first)