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.

10 Fictional Parkers

1. Parker Ruthless criminal character created by Donald E Westlake writing as Richard Stark and portrayed in more than 20 novels
2. Parker The butler in Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde
3. Aloysius Parker Butler to Lady Penelope in Thunderbirds
4. Peter Parker Alter ego of Spiderman
5. Richard Parker Name of the tiger in the novel Life of Pi
6. Charlie Parker Private detective created by John Connolly
7. Kai Parker Character played by Chris Wood in The Vampire Diaries
8. O E Parker Character in a short story by Flannery O'Connor called Parker's Back
9. Nikki and Kim Parker Main characters in an American sitcom The Parkers that ran 1999-2004
10. Phil Parker Part played by Jimmy Nail in his TV series Parents of the Band

10 People surnamed Parker

Not sure why this came to mind

1. Matthew “nosey” Parker Archbishop of Canterbury who died in 1575
2. George Safford Parker American founder of the pen company
3. “Colonel” Tom Parker Elvis Presley's manager
4. Dorothy Parker American fiction writer
5. Gloria Parker American musician and bandleader
6. Charlie Parker American Jazz saxophonist
7. Ray Parker Jr American musician
8. Alan Parker English film director
9. Graham Parker English singer songwriter
10. Sarah Jessica Parker American actress


Great to see these frost patterns this morning. Reminded me of seeing such patterns on the inside of the windows as a kid.

Yet More Christmas Reading 2017

Two other books I have read over this holiday period and that can be highly recommended are D Ralph Davis's Stump Kingdom and Sinclair Ferguson's Child in the manger.
I was given the latter as  Christmas present last year. The one snag with such gifts is that as you do not get the gift until Christmas Day there is little enthusiasm for plunging into such topics then, although I did leaf through it, of course. Well, this year I have given the little hardback a thorough read and I have really enjoyed it. Someone of the experience of a Sincalr Ferguson should not find it difficult to put together such a book. This is not simply my best 10 sermons, however, but a 10 chapters with some sort of connectivity that provide a fairly thorough examination of the subject - Matthew 1, the shepherds, the wisemen, the Isaiah prophecies and even King Herod, etc. It is very useful for devotional use or to plunder for sermon material and deserves a wide readership.
Ralph Davis's book is not a Christmas book, strictly speaking, nor does it claim to be but as it covers Isaiah 6-12 it includes those crucial prophecies regarding the virgin birth and so on so it was good to be reading it when I was. Davis often spekas about vintage yahweh. This is certainly vintage Davis - thorough scholarship, clear structure, vivid illustrations from American and European history and other sources and genuine pastoral insights, all presented in a colloquial but reverend style that holds interest. If you have read any previous offerings from Dr Davis you will need no further encouragement to get this volume.

Lord's Day and Christmas Day 24 and 25 December 2017

Grabbing a moment to write up this morning and yesterday. On Christmas Eve we looked at the wisemen again - specifically Matthew 2:2 and 2:11. That went okay although I had a long quotation from Robert Godfrey on worship in the evening that could have been cut down. We had a good attendance. Our Hungarian family was back after some weeks missing. Four Polish Catholics from Krakow with limited English appeared. At least we sang Infant holy (translated from Polish). Family visitors and others present including  a student who I had been told might come to us.
We had a good time this morning too with lots of people present. We sang three carols and I preached on John 3:16, a great Christmas text. I finished (taking a hint from Sinclair Ferguson) by saying

"We hear a lot about Santa Claus or Father Christmas at this time of the year. Now you understand how it works with Santa. If you go to see him he is only interested in one thing – Have you been good? If you've been good – okay but if not …. He has two lists – naughty and nice and if you're not on the nice list you get no presents. How does the song put it?

He's making a list and checking it twice Gonna find out who's naughty and nice
Santa Claus is comin' to town He sees you when you're sleepin'
He knows when you're a wake He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake Oh! You better watch out, you better not cry
Better not pout, I'm telling you why Santa Claus is comin' to town

The truth is we have all been bad and none of us deserve the presents we get but God is very gracious and he says clearly whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Believe it. It's true."

10 Instances of the Jingle Bells Motif in Popular Music

1. Joni Mitchell River (Beginning and Throughout Piano)
2. Nat King Cole Christmas Song (Close Guitar)
3. T Rex Xmas Riff (Throughout piano)
4. Kate Rusby (While shepherds watch) Cranbrook (End Brass band)
5. Beatles Another Christmas Beatles Record 1964 (Beginning Kazoo)
6. Trans-Siberian Orchestra Siberian Sleighride (Beginning Guitar)
7. Bruce Springsteen Santa Claus is coming to town (End Piano)
8. Stan Freberg Green Christmas (End Medley Sung)
9. Tijuana Brass America (Beginning Trumpet)
10. Jingle Bell Rock Bobby Helms (Beginning Guitar)

Happy 71st Jan Akkerman

About this time of year I like to wish Jan Akkerman a happy birthday. He is 71 tomorrow. He is currently in the midst of a short tour of Holland. Happy birthday!

O Jesus Christ, Thy manger is

There must be hundreds of good forgotten Christmas carols. Here's one I noticed this year by the Lutheran Paul Gerhardt.

O Jesus Christ,
Thy manger is
My paradise at which my soul reclineth.
For there, O Lord,
Doth lie the Word
Made flesh for us;
Here-in Thy grace forth shineth.

He whom the sea
And wind obey
Doth come to serve the sinner in great meekness.
Thou God’s own Son,
With us are one,
Dost join us
And our children in our weakness.

Thy light and grace
Our guilt efface,
Thy heavenly riches all our loss retrieving.
Thy birth doth quell
The power of hell
And Satan’s bold deceiving.

Thou Christian heart,
Who ever thou art,
Be of good cheer and let no sorrow move thee!
For God’s own Child,
In mercy mild,
Joins thee to Him;
How greatly God must love thee!

Remember thou
What glory now
The Lord prepared thee for all earthly sadness.
The angel host
Can never boast
Of greater glory,
Greater bliss or gladness.

The world may hold
Her wealth and gold;
But thou, my heart, Keep Christ as thy true treasure.
To Him hold fast
Unitl at last
A crown be thine
And honor in full measure.

Hark, Hark!

I've really enjoyed listening to Kate Rusby's second version of this old carol over the Christmas

Hark, Hark! Hark, Hark!
What news the angels bring,
Glad tidings of a newborn King.
Born of a maid, a virgin pure,
Born without sin, born without sin.
Born without sin, from guilt secure.

Hail, hail! Mighty Prince, Eternal King,
Let heaven and earth rejoice and sing,
Angels and men, with one accord,
Break forth in song, break forth in song,
Break forth in song, to praise the Lord.

Behold, he comes and leaves the skies,
Awake ye slumbering mortals, rise,
Awake to joy and hail the morn 
A Saviour of, a Saviour of,
A Saviour of this world was born.

Hark, Hark! Hark, Hark!
What news the angels bring,
Glad tidings of a newborn King,
Born of a maid, a virgin pure,
Born without sin, born without sin.
Born without sin, from guilt secure.

Born without sin, born without sin.
Born without sin, from guilt secure.

Beatles Christmas

Funeral St Bride's Wentloog

I was at a funeral yesterday. Going back home is always a little troumatic I find. I grew up in Cwmbran and the nearest boy of my age on the street where I lived, lived three doors up. His father was older than mine (and had fought in the war) but both worked at Lucas Girling (though my father left when I was 10). Stephen and I were thrown together from babyhood. Sadly when we were 6 Stephen's mother left home and we lost touch a little not really reconnecting again until we were 9 or 10. He is the one who invited me to the church where we were both converted and baptised. I was his best man when he married Fay, still quite young, and he reciprocated some years later when i married Eleri. Unlike me, he has continued to live in the same general area. He is an accountnat.
This month his dad, Uncle Eric, died at the grand age of 95. He was buried in the graveyard of St Bridget's,.St Bride's Wentlooge near Newport, where he grew up and where my friend Stephen lived a short time. It is a distinctive low lying part of the country. It makes me think of the Kent Marshes in Dickens. We were only about 25 present at the church, where we sang Hark the herald and Abide with me with food served later at the Ashbridge in Cwmbran. I enjoyed being with my sister and talking to some old college friends and members of Stephen's family.
Uncle Eric was a distant figure for me. My main memory is of him coming to our house weekly on a Thursday night to pay my mother the rent she had paid for him. It always seemed to be during Top of the Pops. I spent a lot of time when he was out at work in his house in the summer holidays as a teenager jumping down the stairs or over the hedge (they moved immediately around the corner and we moved across the road when sisters came along but we were still only yards from each other's homes). We listened to Uncle Eric's records (Last train to San Fernando, Trains and boats and planes, Ernie, etc) adn soemtimes Stephen would try to horrify us with his dad's spare glass eye. As was said in an excellent eulogy, he was a conservative man of humour who loved to tell stories. It was right to honour him and his good deeds. Whatever age you are it is never good to lose your father.

Grudem for sale

I was in a charity shop earlier today (Noah's Ark Hospice shop on the Finchley Rd) and was surprised to see a copy of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology going for £2. I hope they've gone on to Bavinck rather than having abandoned theology. There was no sign of the previous owner within.

Midweek Meeting, Wednesday December 20 2017

We were back up to 11 on Wednesday evening, which was good, especially with so many away at present. Beforehand several of us several of us did some carol singing beforehand in the street behind the church. We have two excellent musicians in the church at the moment and one of them brought a  piano accordion to accompany us . We sang in the street several times at different locations and then knocked doors before passing on tracts. We were only out about 45 minutes.
For the Bible study we considered our third adn final object - the star. We soent  agood time in orayer after that and most prayed.

Harry Blamires

I can be quite slow on the uptake at times but I noticed in The Times recently that Harry Blamires has died (it was actually over a month ago now). I remember hearing his book on The Christian mind being commended and buying a copy. I must admit I never did get round to reading it. His Wikipedia page here shows what an interesting fellow he was.

Some More Christmas Reading 2017

Another short volume in my Christmas collection is Stuart Burgess's The Star of Bethlehem which I read right through recently - it is not long. I had expected to get a lot of science but after a brief introduction dealing very briefly with that sort of thing it's application all the way, with 10 chapters all told. Sometimes the applications seem a little remote but it is all sound stuff and (as Peter Masters would put it) very suggestive!

I have also read this Christmas (possibly for the first time - it is so ubiquitous it is hard to be sure) Charles Dickens' inimitable Christmas Carol. Again, it is not long (under a hundred pages) but well written for the most part. It is pretty sentimental and quite man centred really but not without its lessons for all of us. It was a huge hit in 1843 when it was first published and has never looked back.

More on Big Brave Bill

I should add to a previous post that Big Brave Bill has his own website here. What I'd like to know is where Big Brave Bill was when we had a puncture during our abortive trip to Barnsely earlier in the year - although come to think of it that may well have been him who helped us fix it in the end. See the brief PS here.

A forgotten Christmas Song - by the Kinks

For some reason this Christmas song by the Kinks gets very little airplay. I guess it's not sentimental enough,

New In Writing from the Evangelical Library

IW130 is now out. Do look out for your copy if you are a member of the Evangelical Library. Otherwise copies can be purchased for £1.50. This edition includes  Lee Gatiss on J C Ryle at last.

Kate Rusby - Big Brave Bill Saves Christmas

Also see here

Kate Rusby Christmas at the Barbican

Great to be at a pretty full Barbican tonight for a Kate Rusby Christmas concert with Eleri. First time I've seen her live. We had three versions of While Shepherds, a brilliant Paradise, good fun numbers like Santa never brings me a banjo and The Ivy and the holly and a song about wassailing plus a little instrumental diversion from the boys in the band (which included a five piece brass band for many numbers) along with many other delights culminating (before a two song encore) with Big brave Bill, Christmas version to close. Kate loves to chat and explained all the songs and threw in some humour too. Great atmosphere. As a Christian the words of some of those hymns really mean a whole load more but there was nothing irreverend about any of what we got.

A Seasonal Quiz 2017

A quiz can be found here on my Christmas blog.

Some Christmas Reading 2017

One of the joy of Christmas is getting down my collection of Christmas Books, which I try to add to year by year. Last year I bought a detective novel Murder at the Old Vicarage a Christma Mystery by Jill McGown, which I started but only got a few pages in. This year I made a fresh assault and finished it. I think that when I bought it I assumed that it was one of those old books like The Santa Klaus Murder or Mystery in White (1938 and 1938 respectivey). It was actually published in1988 (as Redemption) but works more or less within the conventions of the traditonal genre. It was easy to read and kept me guessing to the end and that is all you can really ask of such a novel. There was bags of snow and the action takes place over the Christmas period but it is not very Christmassy.
In the bookshop a few weeks ago I saw two books on carols that looked interesting. I went for Carols from Kings by Alexandra Coghlan over Andrew Gant's broader work, probably becasue it was a hardback. I am not a particular fan of the King's service, owever, and so a lot of the content was rather list on me, although I enjoyed learning about the history of carols and liked her list of Christmas music worth hearing (see below).

Page 189
Carols continue to evolve. even today. thanks to the invention and creativity of pop and Jazz artists. But which are the covers worth exploring?
• Jeff Buckley's stripped-back recording of the 'Corpus Christi Carol' is hauntingly lovely and deeply persistent
• Once in Royal is transformed into a lilting country song in the hands of Mary Chapin Carpenter.
• No choir could bring the same poised solemnity to 'We Three Kings' that Ella Fitzgerald somehow achieves.
• Who knew Peter Warlock's 'Bethlehem Down' was hiding a slinky jazz number under its robes? The David Rees-Williams Trio take this beautiful carol to a late-night piano bar, with wonderful results.
• Sufjan Stevens makes a laid-back Indie ballad out of Germany's beautiful Christmas hymn 'Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming'.
• Bert Jausch retains all the simplicity of 'In the Bleak Midwinter' adding his own spontaneity to create a gorgeous pop song.
• 'Little Drummer Boy' gets some unexpected urban edge from Lauryn Hill.

Lord's Day, December 17 2017

Not a bad day yesterday, though no newcomers along and some others missing too. It is remarkable that we could get four locals to come to our Christmas party the day before but no-one to come to the services on the Lord's Day. A lady from Botswana returned after being kept away by the snow the week before. I preached from Luke 2 - on verse 7 in the morning (Jesus in the manger) and verse 14 in the evening (the words of the angels). These are verses we have visited before but it was good to go back to them again. The comingof Christ is a stunning fact.

Midweek Meeting Wednesday December 13 2017

We were just eight on Wednesday as we looked at another Christmas object - this time the manger in which Jesus was laid, which was more likely to have been of stone than wood, it seems. Certainly the strips of cloth wound round him and the laying down spekas of the grave rather than the cross. It was good to look at these matters once again adn to pray together.

The Life and Death of Sherlock Holmes

I guess I would have first encountered Sherlock Holmes on TV many years ago and have watched all of the most recent series starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Many years ago I bought the complete sets of novels and short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and read them with much enjoyment. I came across the book The life and death of Sherlock Holmes in a bookshop a few weeks ago and I later downloaded it in kindle form and read it. It is basically everything you ever wanted to know about the subject. Instead of stopping with the death of Conan Doyle the Swedish writer carries on describing what the surviving family did and didn't do and tracing the parallel life of the character in parodies, films, plays and TV presentations, etc. In the end it is too much but the author writes well and keeps you interested for most of the well over 500 pages! It is an exhaustive and through piece of work that name drops all the way written by a genuine enthusiast and probably would not be appreciated by everyone. I would love to see something similar done with P G Wodehouse's Jeeves although I notice that Bostrom thinks Jeeves is a derivative of Holmes. Strangely it didn't create a desire in me to read the original stories or the book of parodies I also have.

Lord's Day December 10 2017

When I looked out of the window on Sunday, being child at heart, I was pleased to see the snow. of course, the downside was a poor attendance with some away anyway, some unable to make it through the snow and potential visitors clearly discouraged from leaving home. We struggled up to a decent number in the morning but in the evening we were only eight! We did have tea beforehand (only six of us for that). The singing was okay but I chose the less well known songs this week and so with so few that was not easy. I also thought the sermons (on Matthew 1:18 and 1 John 3:5) lacked something. At least the evening one had the merit of being short.
I felt rather down about it the next day and began to plot some sort of escape but rescue came in the unlikely form of the song Santa never brings me a banjo a complaint from a child about a Christmas present that never arrives. I began by sympathising and wallowing in my own unhappiness but soon saw how childish it is. Far better the sentiments of another sing I listened to yesterday that includes the line "Santa knows what I want but Jesus knows what I need".

Midweek Meeting Wednesday December 6 2017

For our midweek meetings up to Christmas I have decided to look at the incarnation in light of s series of three objects. On Wednesday we considered an ancient writing tablet with the words written on it, his name is John. We considered Zechariah and the fact he wrote these words in self-denial and in faith and in a sense prophesying what lay ahead. We were a decent number and we prayed well though I left it a bit late to start. Someone di ask me about Numbers 8:25 where it would seem priests retired at 50 raising the question of why Zechraih was still serving as a priest. It would seem that this refers ti the heavy lifting work of transporting the tabernacle, which ceased after a certain point anyway.

Westminster Conference 2017 Day Two

We have had another good day here in Oxford Street. The first two sessions were taken up with the connected subjects of Jacob Arminius and the Synod of Dort. Phil Arthur gaveus the background to Arminius himself and his writings and then Benedict Bird described the Synod of Dort which began nine years after Arminius's death in November 1618 (it went on until the folliwng year). It was good to have the details set out. We had good discussions especially as there were Arminians present. We also touched on the halfway house of hypothetical atonement or Amyraldianism.
Traditonally, the closing paper is a biography with no discussion. This is the third message I've heard on William Williams Pantycelyn this year and perhaps th ebest - may be because it was given by a minister (Mark Thomas from Wrexham).

LORD, I long to be in thy Presence, 
Tis my Joy and whole Delight;
Sweeter than delicious Honey,
Fairer than the Morning Light;

All the Assaults of Sin and Satan,
I could stedfastly withstand,
And would stem all Woes and Perils,
Having Thee at my right Hand.

I can suffer every Affliction,
And encounter every Foe,
And the Depths of flowing Jordan
Venture also fearless thro',

Only let thy gracious Presence
Then my feeble Soul assist, 
Tis thy Strength eternal only,
That can conquer and resist.

Death and Hell, and all Destruction,
Shake and tremble at thy Might;
And thy Presence hush to Silence
All the roaring Wolves of Night.

Lord Jehovah! Lord Almighty!
Is thy gracious holy Name,
O let me, unworthy Sinner,
Feel the Power of the same.

Good days. Next year we meet again, God willing December 4 and 5

Westminster Conference 2017 Day One

About 120 of us gathered once again at the Regent Hall in Oxford Street for the Westminster Conference. Stephen Clark kicked us off with a fairly comprehensive and persuasive exposition of Word and Spirit touching on regeneration, assurance, guidance an other matters seeking to demonstrate the independence of the Spirit with regard to God's Word. With supporting quotations from Edwards, Murray et al I was more convinced than ever that this is a biblical approach. Some found the long paper hard work and certainly anyone unfamiliar with the arguments might have struggled. Robert Striven chaired and we had a worthwhile discussion on assurance.
Dovetailing neatly with the first session we had a paper in the afternoon from Guy Davies on the felt presence of God, majoring on Thomas Goodwin but including references to Owen. I chaired. I did fear there wold be nothing more to discuss after the morning session but we were able to discuss quite profitably God's felt presence and whether it should be sought. There is some divergence among us but a general unity.
The final paper was slightly different as we went back to Calvin and Reformed liturgy with Andy Young. This was again a useful paper and a good discussion under the strict chairmanship of Jeremy Walker. Inevitably one or two exclusive psalm singers felt obliged to make their points but otherwise we seemed to be able to help one another at the end of what had been a very good day.
Here's a quote from Thomas Goodwin I enjoyed
conscience itself, which is ordained, as the urine of the body, to shew the estate of the whole, and therefore is accordingly called good or evil as the man’s state is, this is apt in such distempers to change and turn colour, and look to a man’s own view as foul as the state of a very hypocrite.” (Goodwin Works III, p. 254.)
Looking forward to day two.

Lunch time lecture at the Library on God's greatness,etc

We had our last lunch time lecture of the year yesterday and there was a good turn out. Ian Densham spoke on the Greatness of God, focusing on his infinity and eternity. It seems that we ran this lecture a little while ago but not to worry it was good to hear again. We also had a library committee later. In between I had time to get two new tyres for the car. They don't come cheaply.

Lord's Day December 4 2017

It was good to be back in Childs Hill again on the Lord's Day. It being the first Sunday of the month we began with communion. A good number were there. I decided to preach on some texts from 1 Peter 4 and 5. In the morning I preached from Chapter 4 on suffering. I am very much aware fo the troubles several are going through at the moment and that we as a church are facing to some extent and so  I outlined seven things we need to do when we suffer. The evening message was about being humble, not anxious and being alert adn sober minded, standing firm as we resist the devil.
There were decent congregations morning and evening, thiugh with some missing as ever. There wa s new Romanian lady in the morning who I hoep we will see again adn then strangely both in the morning and evening there was someone form Botswana present. One, a woman, lives in the area and the other, a man, is visiting the area. I don't think they know each other. Not sire what to make of providences like that. At the very least it should prompt me to pray for that country.
(PS the top pic is a still from Solzhenitsyn's A day in the life of Ivan D wheere Alyosha reads that passage).

10 Seasonal traditions that are perhaps not so old

It's a long Christmas tradition we are often told but some Christmas traditions are perhaps not as old as you think.
1. Seeing the John Lewis Christmas ad – only since 2007
2. Hearing on the radio Merry Christmas Everybody and I wish it could be Christmas every day – only since 1973
3. Watching league football on Boxing Day – only since 1960 (1971 in Scotland)
4. Watching the Queen's speech on TV – only since 1952
5. Hearing the little drummer boy carol – only since 1941
6. Hearing Rudolph the red nosed reindeer – only since 1939
7. Tuning into Carols with nine lessons from Kings – only since 1928 (the thing itself only goes back to 1918)
8. Pulling Christmas crackers – only since 1847
9. Sending Christmas cards – only since 1843
10. Putting up a Christmas tree in England – only since 1840

Book and Candle

The season is here and so we  have our traditional Advent Candle up and running and our book this year is Paul David Tripp's Come let us adore him

Kate Rusby Angels and Men

One might have thought that another seasonal album of equal quality to the others impossible but Kate Rusby has done it. Her fourth such album, Angels and Men, has just come out and I see no discernible diminution in quality. This is a worthy addition to go alongside Sweet Bells (2008) While Mortals Sleep (2011) and Now the Frost is over (2015). The formula (folk band with some addition of brass or electric instruments and very occassional banjo playing songs ancient and modern, sacred and secular, serious and jocular) is the same and works well once again.
One might have thought Deck the Halls or See Amid the Winter's Snow had been covered before but no, here they are for the first time. I think we have had Sweet Chiming Bells but it is here with an alternative tune. Hark hark hark (also done before) and Rolling Downward are traditionals more off the beaten track. Let it snow is another case of taking an MoR song (compare Kris Kringle and Winter Wonderland) and folkifying it.
The traditiuonal Paradise stand out a little here but without spoiling the ambience.
The other source of material is contemporary folk and so we have Richard Thomson's We'll sing Hallelujah, David Myles' Santa never brings me a banjo and The Ivy and the Holly by Chris Sugden, which I think is very funny.
The final two tracks on the album are Let the Bells Ring and Big Brave Bill Saves Christmas fine songs penned by the lass herself.

Airplane Movies

On my journey to and from Nigeria I took opportunity to watch some movies. I watched

The Wizard of Lies
The Circle
Brigsby Bear
Norman: The moderate rise and tragic fall of a New York fixer

I did try one other but abandoned it. These I enjoyed, although the first (The Wizard of Lies starring Robert de Niro) cannot be recommended because of the bad language, etc, throughout. It is a chronicle of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, which defrauded his clients of billions of dollars and sent the stock exchange crashing. It is interesting as Madoff appears not to have thought of himself as a bad character despite hiss crimes and their devastating effects.
The Circle, with Emma Watson and Tom Hanks, is an interesting take on the whole Internet world we find ourselves in. A silicon valley company proves to have cultic tendencies and a lot to hide. The film rather ducks out of the case it has built at the end. Hard to get sponsors otherwise I guess.
Brigsby Bear (Mark Hamill) begins rather weirdly but then gets into more recognisable patterns as it progresses. Having thought about it for a while now I would guess it is a sort of parable in which the people who kidnapped the Mark Hamill character as a baby but gave him an enjoyable but limited life where he loved watching Brigsby Bear's adventures stands for the old studio system in Hollywood. The characters return to his true parents and the making of his own movie helped by friends is perhaps a plea for independent film makers.
Norman (Richard Gere) is a typically Jewish story based in New York among Jews. The Norman character is interesting enough and the plot is very neat. Lovely film.

The Reformation Andrew Atherstone

It was a real joy to get a last bite for the year at the subject of the Reformation in Nigeria recently. Earlier this year I bought a copy of AndrewAtherstone's The Reformation Faith and Flames. I thought it would make a nice coffee table book and to be fair it has sat on our coffee table in the front room only being glanced at a few times to scan the wonderful pictures Lion have provided it with. So, with time running out, I took it to Nigeria and thankfully was able to finish it before returning.
In the course of 10 Chapters it covers the basics of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation to the end of Elizabeth I's reign with an excusable emphasis on Britain and what happened in England and Scotland. I had forgotten that my first exposure to the Reformation was in school, especially doing A level history.
This is a fine introduction for those who are unfamiliar. All the basic names, facts and quotations are here from a historian abreast of his subject. I was surprised that Catherine Parr got no mention (the other five are all named).
I also bought a paperback, Atherstone's Reformation A World in Turmoil at some point also by Lion but with no pictures. The text of both books appears to be the same but I cannot see any reference to the fact in either book.


Urban Fox

My son snapped this cheeky creature in our garden a little earlier today.

Nigeria Report

With Ani Ekpo


Conference Speakers

Old friend Engineer Emediong Samuel, former student at London Seminary

On Monday November 20 last I was up very early to head to Heathrow and fly via Frankfurt to Port Harcourt in Nigeria. It took me the best part of the day to get there adn night had fallen when I arrived. The airport arrivals building is not there at the moment and so a makeshift tent is in use. The waft of warm air, the sound of the crickets, the rain and the air of confusion over prcdures all served to remind me of my previous trip 13 years before.
I was collected by my friend Pastor Aniekan Ekpo abkly assisted by a man I remember from before called "Japan" (he's good with motors). This time I was put in a hotel. Fairly basic but with en suite wet room and seatless toilet, a fan and an AC unit. electicity is as intermittent as ever but the hotel and the church have their own generators and the former would cut in fairly soon after any loss of power.
Apart from the introduction of motorised rickshaws in place of motobikes and the obvious upgrades in 'phone technology I could see little difference in the area. Rumuodara is as dirt poor as ever. The sight of a white man is still a novelty (I saw no other in the period of my seven day stay).
The church on the other hand now has its roof completed and a wooden ceiling so that on the one day it rained heavily the noise was very limited. There is also a day school and a seminary, which had not really arrived when I was here last. About 87 children come to the school. I enjoyed their little drumming band on my first morning, when I addressed the assembled children. Whenever asked to give an off the cuff address to children I always turn tothe story of Naaman, which is very child friendy and instructive.
After this, Pastor Ani, a local Baptist pastor and myself headed for a meeting of Acmin (Akwa-Cross Ministerial Network, see here) a ministers fellowship for ministers from Rivers State where we are and the neighbouring state. It was held in Rehoboth Specialist Hospital kindly made available by surgeon Professor Aniekan Ekere (see here). The meeting was in full swing when I arrived. Fairly Pentecostal in its ethos, it was  mixed affair. Ani had asked me to speak and they listened politely. I spoke on What makes a Christian leader, stressing training and commitment.
The main reason for my coming to Nigeria was to give three addressesat a conference on the Reformation organised at the church (The Reformed Baptist Tabernacle). The conference was a two adn half day 15 session job and I spoke three times on various Reformation subjects. It is not easy to make oneself understood but I did my best. Numbers varied greatly over the sessions but we were just about into triple figures by the end. The other speakers varied in quality but some were very good. On the Friday it was native wear. I was kindly provided with a colourful shirt. The weather was good which may have helped attendance.
On the Saturday it was matriculation and graduation. There were also orindations. This seemd a rather unbaptist way of doing things but it is to do with Nigerian laws and the difficulty of establishing legitimacy. This was  long and unusual day for me. Leaving students were given copies of Ryle on the Gospels courtesy of Banner of Truth.
On the Sunday I preached in the morning and spoke to the Sunday School children and the young people. That was again a privilege.
Throughout the time at the church photographs, formal and informal were being taken adn I must appeared in at least five hundred of these.
Although hard work it was good to be away from the computer for a while and to get some reading done. I thoroughly enjoyed the time there and learned a lot. The cultural differences are huge in some ways but the way Aniekan Ekpo and men round him are getting on with the work is most encouraging. I enjoyed meeting the men from the church and also Sammy, Jerry and Bulo, three young New Calvinists from Abuja, Lagos and Jos respectively.
My flight home was  a night time one. It was good to be back.

Midweek Meeting Wednesday November 29 2017

We were only 10 last night but from soemthing like is different nations all told. It was good just tonshare soemthing of the recent trip to Nigeria. We also ahd a very good time of prayer with most taking parr, including one person we haven't heard pray before - always a treat. Although this is a difficult time for the church with money shortages and many struggling in one way or another (mostly illnesses) it was a very encouraging time.

Lord's Day November 26 2017

Last Sunday was a bit different, of course, as I was in Nigeria - more on the whole trip at some other point. Suffice to say it was a joy and privilege to be once more at the Reformed Baptist Tabernacle in Rumuodara, Port Harcourt, at the invitation of Aniekan Ekpo. We were still celebrating the reformation as we had done through the week and there was also a celebration to mark a recent wedding and a college promotion that followed on. I preached from Galatians 3:1-14 on justification by faith and said something about the Reformation briefly. Several others took art in that.
In the afternoon I spoke briefly t the Sunday School children and a good session with the young people in the church parlour asking and  answering questions/
All three girls in the picture are called Peace and were in the youth meeting. They form a three peace suit or suite I guess.

Death of Bobi Jones in Aberystwyth

While I was away my father-in law's cousin died. You may know the name of Bobi Jones only from the Welsh hymns in Christian Hymns that he translated but there was a lot more to him. This obituary in The Independent is by Meic Stephens.
By far the most prolific writer of the Welsh language in his lifetime, Robert Maynard Jones was born into a working-class, English-speaking home in Cardiff in 1929.
His grandfather, a Marxist, instilled in him an egalitarian spirit which coloured all he wrote and did in later life – novels, short stories, poems, literary criticism which made no apology for being intellectually challenging. His aim was never to produce popular texts but to exercise both the reader and the language.
His non-creative work was published under the name R M Jones. His poems painted pictures of time he spent in Ghana, Quebec and Mexico City, where he fell ill.
Such was the scale of his output that Jones’s peers joked he had more books to his name than he had readers – undeterred, he kept producing and consolidating his position as a stalwart of Welsh literature. 
At Cathays grammar school he learned Welsh as a second language, and was inspired to study it at degree level at the University of Wales, Cardiff.* 
After teaching at Llanidloes in Montgomeryshire and Llangefni in Anglesey, he lectured at Trinity College, Carmarthen, and at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, joining the staff of the Welsh Department in 1966. He was appointed Professor of Welsh Language and Literature at Aberystwyth in 1980 – in 1969 he had taught Prince Charles Welsh there. He retired in 1989. 
His marriage in 1952 to Anne Elizabeth (Beti) James, a native Welsh speaker from Pembrokeshire, proved crucial in his development as a poet. She inspired him towards Welsh literature, which was to remain – along with his Calvinist faith – the driving force of his career. At this time, too, he joined Plaid Cymru. The couple had two children, Rhodri and Lowri.
He made the case for what he saw as the complementary notions religion and nation in Crist a Chenedlaetholdeb (“Christ and Nationalism”), published in 1994.

In 1976 in, perhaps, a belated response to complaints that he was writing too much, he announced that he would publish no more verse for 10 years. 

He found it difficult to keep his word and, as he once remarked to me with a wink, it did not mean he had to stop writing altogether. 
He was no less prodigious in the writing of prose. His three novels are Nid yw Dwr yn Plygu (“Water does not bend”, 1958), Bod yn Wraig (“To be a woman”,1960) and Epistol Serch a Selsig (“An epistle of love and sausages”, 1997). Making no concession to “the common reader”, these books are difficult even for those familiar with literary theory and are not meant to be popular – a category he despised and for the promoting of which he often took the Welsh Books Council to task. 
In his view, the Welsh reader needed to be “fully stretched”, for the integrity and vitality of the language depended on it. He regarded the minimalists among his critics, especially those poets who were content to bring out a slim volume and then fall silent, as exemplars of the Welsh inferiority complex, which he was fond of examining at every opportunity. His readers were taxed to the utmost by his works of literary theory.
As a student he was particularly anxious to learn why the language and literature of Wales play such a crucial part in the maintenance of Welsh nationhood.
Having mastered Welsh as a second language and made it the language of his home and writing, R M Jones turned to the teaching of Welsh to adults, a field in which he played a pioneering and inspirational role for many years, particularly as the prime mover of Cymdeithas y Dysgwyr (CYD, or “The Learners’ Society”), which since 1984 has been active in organising classes in all parts of Wales. 
What he called for was a mass movement similar to the Ulpan scheme which had restored Hebrew in Israel, seeing it as the only hope for the survival of Welsh, and he worked tirelessly in pursuit of this ideal. He was fond of telling the story of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda and his wife Devora who, after landing in Jaffa in 1881, resolved to speak only Hebrew with each other and swore to become the parents of the first child in modern times to have that language as its mother tongue. 
Although he produced a number of works in English, it became to him a foreign language.
Jones’s last years were marred by severe physical back pain which prevented him from sitting down, so that his reading and writing had to be done in the upright position or lying prone on his stomach. Even so, he did not let it interrupt his 12-hour days. His collected poems were published as Canu Arnaf (“Singing me”) in two volumes in 1994 and 1995, and yet another as Ol Traed (“Footprint”) in 2003. It was thus he served the language and literature of his country, and the God he revered above all else. 
In one poem, he wrote: “Death, you’re afraid of me, because I’m young”.

Bobi (Robert Maynard) Jones, writer of the Welsh language, born 20 May 1929, died 22 November 2017
* He himself spoke of more or les being pushed into carrying on with Welsh in Secondary School

The Book That ...

My esteemed father-in law recently sent me and many others a questionnaire about books. You can see my contribution alongside those of Mack Tomlinson and Garry Williams (sorry they have failed to give Garry his two Rs) on the Banner of Truth Website here. Check out the other two articles too with more to come I hope.

Lord's Day November 19 2017

Yesterday was strange in some ways as I was very conscious that I would be leaving for Nigeria first thing the next day and so I was tempted to let my mind stray there. Perhaps first thng Monday is not the bext time to be heading away. Anyway, although attendance was not great for various reasons (only eight of us sat down to communion before the evening meeting) it was a  blessing to preach the Word once again. I preached n Dorcas from the end off Acts 9 in the morning. A bit longer than usual. I was more my usual length in the evening I think (about half an hour). I decided to preach fro 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10 as I am conscious of many needs in the congregation at present. For some reason the sining did not go so well today (a wrong tune involving a restart, one or two unfamiliar tunes, a bit of a failure by me leading acapella at the communion table, etc). The thing is I don't think everyone is convinced about our approach - singing a huge variety of (mostly older) hymns from the new Christian Hymns and so when we struggle a bit they tend to think it's the approach that's wrong. We had two Japanese ladies there in the morning (an older lady visiting and a younger lady with her daughter from the area). It was good to meet them.

10 More Rugbyasongs

1. Let there be scrums
2. Benevolent conversion
3. Good sixnations
4. Yer Blues
5. The Lions sleep tonight
6. Rucking in the deep
7. Wallaby
8. All Black Star
9. Scarlets jibons
10. Maul by myself

10 Rugbyasongs

1. Try again
2. Here comes the scrum
3. Eleanor Rugby
4. Maul right now
5. Disco ruck 
6. Prop Muzik
7. Girl in the front row
8. I heard it on the gain line
9. Ospreys hymn
10. Scrum together