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.

Yes, that really is what they are singing

Lyrics in popular music can often turn out to be not quite what you thought. Sometimes they really are,  however. I've been listening to an early Norah Jones track with the Peter Malick Group - Things you don't have to do - for some time now and just subliminally taking in the reference to Benny Hinn but then wondering if I was imagining it.. I just checked and it really is there.

Bill, doesn't call me anymore

I hear, he's found religion.
He's watchin' Benny Hinn
With a big blonde-haired apprentice beautician.

All the words and gesticulations that came before,

They don't seem to mean a thing
You can feel fine to drop a dime
If you're ever hanging by a string.

Ain't it just a little scary sometimes
To find the lies that you know to be true
Find you smiling about
Things you don't have to do
Things you don't have to do

Lord's Day, March 26 2017

Once again we were quite full in the morning and quite a small group in the evening. Some of our students are back which added to our numbers, though others were away. Just two Iranians again but lots of others fro different backgrounds. One couple are now back from a few weeks in New Zealand. Someone else will be in The Philippines for the next six months. One of my sons and his wife were there. They noticed how different the congregation was even from just four or five weeks back. In the evening a fairly new person said they wanted to talk after about a problem. I couldn't guess what it was but it turned out to be sleeping. Thankfully I was able to put my hand on Adrian Reynolds' little book on the subject so I hope that helped.
I preached in the morning again from Acts 2 and I hope was helpful and evangelistic. In the evening I preached from that great text 1 Peter 2:7.

Congregational Studies Conference 2017

I was with my Congregational friends last Saturday and had a very nice time. I used to see the conference advertised and think about cming along but never made it until last year when Michael Haykin was speaking. Anyway this year Digby James its convenor asked me to speak on libraries (a reciprocation for my asking him to speak for the Evangelical Library perhaps). I spoke on Libraries and their value and enjoyed preparing and speaking.
The other speakers were Paul Lusk on pluralism today a very stimulating non-Christian Institute approach to this whole difficult matter on which Paul has recently published. It being the 300th anniversary of the birth of William Williams Pantycelyn we had a fine  message from young Nathan Munday who is currently doing a Welsh PhD on the sweet singer of Wales. Great stuff.
Digby also gave us a nice presentaiton on the fifty year history of the EFCC.
The papers will be printed in due time. I just sent mine off now.
Next one March 17 in Wesley's Chapel. This one was in the Dr Williams Library.

Pregnant Pachyderm Produces

I seem to be seeing new born elephants everywhere. This one arrived in Chester earlier this year.
The gestation period for an elephant is 22 months!

Midweek Meeting Wednesday March 22 2017

Wednesday was a bit disappointing. We were in double figures but only just and there were some missing. I decided to take a break from Leviticus a  think it is quite demanding. What I chose to do was something on Sola Scriptura, however, and I rather gabbled through that. When it came to the time of prayer we were a little slow to get going really. I think events in London that day had left us a little subdued. Life is often not straightforward.

This is a song

I was thinking about his song the other day. I found this acoustic demo. Nice.


I'm not sure how these malgorithms work but if you know anything of the story of Marc Bolan (he died in a car crash) then you will recognise how tasteless this ad on Youtube is.

Comb your hair and curl it

I thought some of you might enjoy this. For most of us it will be better to listen than to look. Aah, the seventies, eh? Charles O'Connor's little guitar is a specially made electric mandolin. BTW I am, of course, rooting for the Welsh tonight not the Irish.

Lord's Day March 19 2017

This week has brought some twists and turns and so once again I find myself unable to report on the Lord's Day until now. Numbers were very good in the morning (pretty much out of Bibles once again) and once more a little low in the evening. We had at least one new lady in the morning and other newbies also came. One oddity was that I tried to help the Iranians by having one of them translate my sermon heads into Farsi which I then reproduced on the notice sheets. Imagine my consternation when nearly halfway into the service there were no Iranians in sight. Soon two turned up, both well able to cope with English. Apparently the recent Spring equinox marks the beginning of Iranian new year hence the no show. There were plenty of others present still from various places and I am hoping to gather some of them this week to discuss baptism and church membership.
In the morning, we tackled Peter's sermon on the Day of Pentecost, which I hope went well. In the evening we took a break from Matthew to take a one off text John 5:39, 40. This is one of the hundred texts of the Irish Church Missions mentioned here before, one that I think somehow I have missed until now. I'll probably put it on my preached sermons blog.

Anne Dutton

I took a trip into the countryside last Saturday. Although I live in England I am not very familiar with it apart from London. This trip took me deep into the Bedfordshhire and Cambridgeshire landscape, along roads and through villages that I don't recall ever having travelled before. I can't remember seeing so many thatched cottages in one afternoon. My target was the Baptist Chapel in Great Gransden, a lovely square 19th century building with a gallery and a large clock.
It is the church where Anne Dutton was a member and she was the focus of two lectures that afternoon, given by Professor Michael Haykin and David Gay. The church was packed with about 60 present. We were well looked after by the church. Dr Haykin gave us the background and took us through the life of Anne Dutton (she is one of the subjects in his new book of biographies of eight women). Mr Gay in his own idiosyncratic style gave us some highlights from her writings, matters such as assurance (he has written a book The Spirituality of Anne Dutton). Dutton was a prolific writer and there has been a new surge of interest in her over the recent past. Her writings are easy to come by if you look on the Internet and seem well worth investigating.
We have mentioned Dutton previously. See here.
Worth missing the rugby for, especially as Wales lost. (At least England have finally been stopped so missing out on the Triple Crown and Grand Slam).

10 British Buns

1. Bath bun (shown) - rich, round sweet roll that has a lump of sugar baked in the bottom and more crushed sugar sprinkled on top after baking
2. Chelsea bun – currant bun first created in the 18th century at the Bun House in Chelsea, an establishment favoured by Hanoverian royalty which was demolished in 1839
3. Colston bun - named after Sir Edward Colston; made in the city of Bristol; composed of a yeast dough flavoured with dried fruit, candied peel and sweet spices
4. Hot cross bun - spiced sweet bun made with currants or raisins and marked with a cross on the top, traditionally eaten on Good Friday in the UK, etc but now popular all year round
5. Iced bun – bread roll made to a sweet recipe with an icing sugar glaze covering the top
6. London bun - finger-shaped or elongated bun made of rich yeast dough flavored with either currants or caraway seeds and topped with white sugar icing
7. Saffron bun - rich, spiced, yeast-leavened sweet bun, flavoured with saffron and cinnamon or nutmeg, and contains currants, similar to a teacake
8. Sally Lunn bun – enriched yeast bread associated with the city of Bath
9. Currant bun - sweet bun that contains currants or raisins; towards the end of the seventeenth century the Reverend Samuel Wigley founded the Currant Bun Company in Southampton
10. Sticky bun - dessert or breakfast sweet roll that generally consists of rolled pieces of leavened dough, sometimes containing brown sugar or cinnamon, which are then compressed together to form a flat loaf corresponding to the size of the baking pan; they have been consumed since the Middle Ages, at which time cinnamon became more prominent

Something for St Patrick's Day

In honour of St Patrick's Day here are some Kerry Slides from the album Chieftains 5. The pictures include two slides in Tralee, County Kerry. Listen out for the singing. My great on one side was Irish or the son of an Irishman I guess, hence my surname.

Midweek Meeting March 15 2017

We were a little low in numbers last night as we came to the end of the opening section of Leviticus. We looked at a lot of verses but I think we got through it okay. We'll need to take a break soon, I'm sure. We had a good prayer session but I cut it a little short perhaps. We had started late as I arrived late owing to technical problems.

Baptist Anecdote

I came across this anecdote recently from 1824 in The New Evangelical Magazine, and Theological Review, Volume 10. A correspondent (Elimelech) includes it saying he had it from Benjamin Francis. (Apologies to any paedobaptist friends).
A poor woman, a member of a neighbouring Independent church, requested me to give her a Bible. I replied, “Yes, Mary, I have no objection to give you a Bible, but it must be on one condition.” “Well, Sir,” said she, “ and what is it?” “Why it is this, that you bring me one text from the New Testament that authorises Infant Baptism.” “Yes, Sir, that I will," was her reply; and she went away apparently very much pleased with the success of her application. The next day she came again, I said, “How do you do, Mary - have you got the text?” “Yes, Sir,” said she, “the best I could find.” She replied, with much seeming satisfaction, “It is in 1 Pet. ii. 13. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake Sir.” I do not recollect the close of this short dialogue, except that it contained a promise that the good woman should have the Bible.

The Beginning of Spring

I am currently enjoying the novels of Penelope Fitzgerald. Having read The Blue Flower and The Bookshop I recently picked up the appropriately titled The beginning of Spring which is set among expatriates living in early 19th century Russia. It is not particularly seasonal but it is very well written and even has something of a plot, something which is often in short supply in many novels I read these days. I guess the Spring thing or the ice thaw is acting as a device to underline the general drift of the novel. Worth a second read. Perhaps the two snippets below will give the flavour

“You can borrow my Blackbird, if you like,' said Ben. This was his new fountain pen, which troubled him. It was guaranteed not to leak, but writers and schoolchildren knew better. Ben wished to be relieved of the responsibility of the Blackbird, without losing his own dignity.”

"Birch Tree Thoughts was at the censor now, and since all poetry was suspect, would perhaps be more carefully read there than it ever would again."

Lord's Day March 12 2017

I arrived at church around twenty minutes before we began and already four people were sat in the congregation. At first I thought they were all strangers but it turned out that one was a lady who is not there every Sunday and she had brought a friend. There was also a new Nigerian lady and a new Korean lady. We were again a good number in the morning. I tried giving a translated sheet to the Iranians, using google, but that was not particularly successful (no verbs apparently). A former member in the country for a while turned up unannounced so that was encouraging. Someone who had left us has also decided to come back, it seems. With people asking about baptism, these continue to be mostly encouraging times. I preached on the opening verses of Acts 2. It is a lot easier now than in the past as I've thought about it so long and do not feel under pressure from the Charismatics at all. In the evening we looked at the closing verses of Matthew 12 about who is most closely related to Jesus.

A day in Brighton

Last Saturday I headed down to Brighton by train - not for a day out as such but to speak at the annual Sussex Conference on the subject of conscience. The conference, which has run for many years, took place in Ebenezer Reformed Baptist Church in the heart of Brighton and is organised by the pastor Tony Bickley with Howard Sayers from nearby Hailsham. About 20 attended from churches in Brighton and other places. It was good to meet people, some of whom I knew, others who were knew. My book was on sale and I think sales were good. I did have a little wander down to the pier with old friend David Mitchell and his mum who had come across from Portsmouth. It was quite a nice day despite a foggy start. I hope people enjoyed the day as much as I did.

22-9 Wales victorious

A deserved win for Wales. Well played against Ireland. George North superb. What a game!

Changes at London Seminary

 News from the Principal

Dear Friend

Twenty years ago, I left the legal profession to train for pastoral ministry at London Theological Seminary (as it then was). I took that significant step because I was convinced that God was calling me into pastoral ministry. I pastored Banbury Evangelical Free Church for eight years subsequently, a time of challenge, joy and, I hope, fruitfulness in gospel work. In 2007, ten years ago, I left that work for a full-time post at LTS, succeeding Philip Eveson as Principal in 2008. The call to pastoral ministry has, however, never left me and in recent years has become stronger and stronger.

I therefore took the decision last autumn, after much prayer, thought and discussion with my wife and a few close friends, to investigate the possibility of returning to pastoral ministry. This was in the consciousness that, in God's goodness, the work at the Seminary is in a stable and healthy condition. The result is that I have accepted a call to the pastorate of Bradford on Avon Baptist Church. I will complete my time at the Seminary, therefore, this summer and take up my new post in the autumn.

It has been a very great privilege to serve as principal of this Seminary for the past (nearly) nine years and to work with my dedicated and gifted colleagues here. The experience of helping men to prepare for pastoral ministry is uniquely rewarding. I will miss it tremendously. At the same time, my wife Sarah and I are looking forward with great anticipation to my move back into pastoral ministry. I hope to retain some teaching involvement at the Seminary and my concern that men intending to go into the pastorate should have the best training possible will not diminish.

Please pray for Sarah and me and the church at Bradford on Avon, as we move there, and for the Board of the Seminary, as they pursue the process of looking for a new principal. Thank you for your continued support of the work here.

Robert Strivens

Pray for us too at Childs Hill as we adjust to being one elder less (GBB)

Midweek Meeting Wednesday March 8 2017

We had a good turn out last night and plenty of praying. We looked at the last of the five main offerings covered in Leviticus 1-7: the guilt or trespass offering. We sang this Toplady hymn

From whence this fear and unbelief?
Hath not the Father put to grief
His spotless Son for me?
And will the righteous Judge of men
Condemn me for that debt of sin
Which, Lord, was charged on Thee?

Complete atonement Thou hast made,
And to the utmost Thou hast paid
Whate'er Thy people owed;
How then can wrath on me take place,
If sheltered in Thy righteousness,
And sprinkled with Thy blood?

If thou hast my discharge procured,
And freely in my room endured
The whole of wrath divine;
Payment God cannot twice demand,
First at my bleeding Surety's hand,
And then again at mine.

Turn then, my soul, unto thy rest!
The merits of thy great High Priest
Have bought thy liberty;
Trust in His efficacious blood,
Nor fear thy banishment from God,
Since Jesus died for thee.

Lord's Day March 5 2017

Sunday was rather different in that I was sat listening rather than up the front preaching. This is because I have two students from the seminary with me at the present time on placement. I had wanted to have them preach on two different Sundays but it turned out easiest if they both preached on the same day. I led the communion to begin the day using a communion address from John Owen. The two were also keen that I should lead, which I did although I think it would work better if they had taken it all. Anyway, Thapelo from South Africa preached in the morning from Ephesians 4 on living out the gospel and Alexander from the Netherlands in the evening from Nehemiah on spiritual awakening. They both did very well, especially Alexander in that he was not preaching in his mother tongue. Nevertheless, there is room for improvement and I will be trying to help them with this.
Attendance was good, especially in the morning, although there were quite a few missing. There was another new lady who I hope we see again. Most of the Iranians were there. We also had a visit from someone who I thought had given up us so that was an encouragement.

Affinity Study Conference 2017

It was good to be able to be at the theological study conference once again. Some 74 of us gathered at the King's Park Conference Centre in Northampton from lunch last Wednesday to lunch on Friday. 
I was glad to be able to bring along two seminary students currently on placement, who joined two or three other students also along. It was good to have my old friend Alan Davey with us on the road up. We also met several other Welshmen or Wales based souls including Mark Thomas, Guy Davies, Stuart Dainty and Gareth Williams Bala. Also nice to chat with Ian McNaughton and others. Some of us including Chris Thomas, Lucy Beale and Mark Pickett enjoyed a walk around nearby Pitsford Water just when the rain stopped on day 2. Other leisure activities included playing pool - not something I often do. I even managed to win two games!
The format is that six papers are distributed to attendees beforehand and then presented at the conference followed by group and then plenary discussion. This year's subject was The Christian Church: Its Mission in a Post-Christian Culture.
I was put in a group ably led by Hexham based American Joshua Rieger that included Andrew Murray, Mike Plant, Ian Parry and others and David MacKay who presented the last of the six papers given.
The papers took us through the Old and New Testaments, church history (Augustine then the rest of history) and the present day. The best of these papers were David Green on the OT and Paul Helm on Augustine. Sadly, Lee Gatiss's slightly sketchy paper did not arrive until the conference had started for various reasons.
We ended with a plenary session chaired by Stephen Clark, who had played a big part organising the conference. Logistics were in the hand of the ever proficient Assistant Director Matthew Evans. Various men chaired including Affinity Director Graham Nicholls, who also organised a prayer session where we had various reports on Wales, N Ireland, Christian Concern, etc, etc.
I thought the conference lacked a little perhaps in theology (for a theological study conference) and was surprised that we didn't appear to differ on Presbyterian/Independent lines as may ahve been expected. In fact, I would have valued more Presbyterian input (I think). Anyway the next one the year after next will be on worship and I doubt if I will be making the same observations then.

Luton Airport scam

I dropped off a friend at Luton Airport recently/ The charge (not announced beforehand) was £3. That is a scandalous scam. See here. Also here.
Given that I was only there 5 minutes, that is !

Rhywbeth ar gyfer Gwyl Dewi Sant

I thought we ought to have something to celebrate St David's Day here. You'll have to listen for a while to spot it, mind.