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.

Ralph and Ebenezer Erskine's mother

I told a story the other day and someone said "Is it true?" Truth is I don't know. When I checked it out again recently I found what I reproduce below here.

DID YOU KNOW… the story, much repeated, of the birth of Dunfermline’s Secessionist Minister, the Rev Ralph Erskine, taking place after the death of his mother?
What follows is a brief outline, as described by Buckham Hugh Hossack (1835-1902)

Margaret Halcro was Orkney born and, on 1st September 1674, at the age of 27, she married the Rev Henry Erskine at Dryburgh, Berwickshire – she being his second wife. A short time afterwards Margaret “died” and after being kisted, was taken to the churchyard at Chirnside to be buried. Later that same night, the person organising the burial, knowing she had been placed in the coffin wearing a ring on her finger, returned to the gravesite. He opened the coffin, which he had earlier partially covered with earth and attempted to remove the ring. Unable to do so, he took his knife and began the process of amputating her finger. Margaret, suddenly regaining consciousness, sat up in the coffin and screamed with pain. She, it is suggested, had been in a trance and very obviously not dead. The man then exited the churchyard in a hurry leaving Margaret sitting in the coffin. She eventually succeeded in scrambling out and made her way home, where she surprised her family with her dramatic return from the grave. This incident occurred prior to the birth of her five children, including Ebenezer and Ralph, who could claim their mother “died” before they were born.
A final twist to the story is found in Erica Hunt’s booklet “Chirnside Past and Present” She claims to “know” the ring in question, describing it as having a cluster of five large diamonds. She further states it was handed down from eldest daughter to eldest daughter and, at the time of writing, was in the possession of her cousin living in New Zealand.
However, one man who is convinced the story, as told by Hossack, is not true is James Tait, former editor of the Kelso Chronicle newspaper. His opinion can be found in his “Two Centuries of Border Church Life”. He bases his view on the fact that no evidence has been found which would give credence to the story, his argument being if such a dramatic event took place then surely a record of it would have appeared in the Erskine family papers and therefore “the story may be dismissed as without foundation”. Just to complicate matters, Tait tells us that in the story told to him, it was Henry Erskine’s first wife who was the subject of burial before death, not Margaret Halcro!
So, did this event take place or is it simply a legend? The honest answer is I do not know, so I leave it to the reader to decide.

Izaak Walton's Cottage

As I sped off from the conference I came through Shallowford where I espied a nice thatched cottage signposted Izaak Walton's Cottage.
I learn from the associated website (see here) at Izaak Walton (1594-1683), the celebrated author of the 'Compleat Angler', owned this charming cottage that nestles in the tiny hamlet of Shallowford, between Stafford and Eccleshall.
The charming thatched 16th century half-timbered cottage (I think that should be 17th century) will be of interest, they suggest, to anglers and non anglers alike, offering as it apparently does a marvellous insight into the history of fishing and the literary talent of Stafford's famous son.
Izaak left the cottage in his will to the people of his home town of Stafford, and now the museum pays homage to his illustrious life. Inside we apparently learn about Izaak Walton the Merchant, Churchman, biographer (he wrote lives of Donne, Herbert, Hooker, Sanderson, etc), writer, angler, and Royalist and of his great contribution to the genre of biography and his influence as an early conservationist.
Walton's two respective wives (his first wife pre-deceased him) were related to Cranmer and Thomas Ken. Some of his personally owned books ended up in Salisbury Cathedral Library. They include a1 1650 copy of Richard Sibbes' The returning backslider. He was a Sibbes fan and on the flyleaf of the book he has written the famous couplet

Of this blest man let this just praise be given, 
Heaven was in him, before he was in heaven.

Within the cottage the period rooms are furnished to reflect the rural trappings of the 17th Century. There are also rooms dedicated to Izaak the writer and biographer and to the history and evolution of angling. It appears to open only from May to September on the Lord's Day.

Banner UK 2017 Final Sessions Garry Williams, Ed Collier

Our final morning was given over to two sessions. The first was a second message from Garry Williams, this time on the living Word.
The main argument was that while we must get back to Bible days we must also get forward again to today, not in a liberal or Barthian sense but an evangelical one. We are not eavesdropping on what God said to others but we are hearing the very Word of Gdo to us. The technical work of recapturing the context is important but it is only part of the work. The Bible is designed for believers in all ages.
He finished with six wonderful consequences, etc
1. An incredible demonstration of the genius of God
Everything that will ever come up has been covered already in God's Word
2. It is present to all time
Scripture is the ongoing rapport between heaven and earth, between Christ and His church, between God and His children. It does not just tie us to the past; it binds us to the living Lord in the heavens. It is the living voice of God, the letter of the omnipotent God to His creature. God once created the world by the word, and by that word He also upholds it [Heb. 1:2, 3]. But He also re-creates it by the word and prepares it to be His dwelling. Divine inspiration, accordingly, is a permanent attribute of Holy Scripture. It was not only ‘God-breathed’ at the time it was written; it is ‘God-breathing.’
You can open the Bible with your three year old adn they can hear God speak.
3. The risen Jesus is present to us now in all the fullness of who he is
4. Where Jesus is Satan will be
5. Preach it in a way that fits its character
Exegesis will not be enough nor even just application. People need a bold Word from God today. 
6. Doesn't the whole meeting need to reflect that?
Does each part of the service reflect what the Bible is? The Lord's Day ought to be the most dramatic day of the week.
Michael Horton "something dramatic and important is happening" when we gather before God.
His final illustration referred, I think, to Dan Smith’s Dream Shop and Tool Chest, which is a collection of woodworking tools to satisfy the most avid woodworker. His point is that in the Bible we have such a dream shop and tool chest.

The second half of the morning was the conference sermon from Ed Collier of Sheffield on the Parable of the Sower from Mark 4. He spoke very warmly and well on what he called "a perseverance producing parable for preachers" that brings about both realism and hope and expectation.
Looking at the sower the seed and the soils he made two main points
1 There will be frustrations
Some will be 
1 Snatched away
"Whatever odd ideas might come into a man’s head when he was shut up alone with his books, a healthy dose of 'real life'… was enough to show him that all 'that sort of thing' just couldn’t be true." C S Lewis (Screwtape)
2 Scorched away
3 Strangled away
2. But there will be fruit
The yields promised are way beyond what might have been expected at that time.
We are not always best placed to know how fruitful we are being. We need to rest our assurance of fruit on what the Lord's promise.
It also often takes a long time to appear. harvests take time.

Banner UK 2017 Session 10 S Ferguson

Tonight we had the final session with Sinclair Ferguson and the matter of consolidation in Christ, again in Philippians 3.
He began by speaking of the narrative of conflict throughout Scripture. At the epicentre is Christ's declaration that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church. Part of the onslaught is seen in the efforts of false teachers to make inroads.
Paul encourages the Philippians in three ways to stand fast and firm in the Lord
1. By imitation (17ff)
They should echo the atmosphere around Paul and others in their lives.
2. By recognition
You need not only to watch those who are worth imitating but also to watch out for false teachers.
False teachers can be recognised by asking
1 What is his attitude to the cross of Christ? (Sometimes he is merely silent but more often false teaching about the cross is characteristic).
2 What is the identity of their functional god
3 What are thy enthusiastic about?
4 What is their characteristic mindset?
5 Where is it all heading? (19)
3. By keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus who will soon come
What a gospel we have.

Banner UK 2017 Session 9 Stephen Clark

In his second section Stephen Clark made a number of points on the subject of the Scriptures witness to Christ.
These were his main points
1. Biblical revelation is progressive in nature
2. Christ is presented in different ways in different Scriptures
Here we had some helpful material on types,looking at Joseph, Moses, Job and Psalm 22. Also the Son of God theme, pointing out that the phrase means different things in different contexts.
He commended Cunningham's Historical Theology and its treatment of eternal sonship.
3. The way Scripture testifies to the offices of Christ
This was a fine and helpful presentation.

Banner UK 2017 Session 8 AndyYoung

In our second session of the morning Andy Young took us to Luke 4 and spoke of Christ's ministry. He said five things about it. It was marked by
1. Use of ordinary means 
We must believe in the ordinary means
2. Spirit filled might
To be Messiah was to be a man anointed by the Spirit. If he needed the Spirit then certainly we do. We need the Spirit but realise that the Spirit is available.
3. Christ centred message
Notice the unashamed emphasis on me himself. Puritan Joh Arrowsmith wrote that true ministers "set up Christ in their ministry; they are content themselves to stand in the crowd, and to lift up Christ upon their shoulders; content, not to be seen themselves, so Christ be exalted".
4. Eschatological magnitude
5. Gracious mission

Behold your God
Emulate Christ
Be encouraged - Christ is still ministering

Final illustration
He closed with what is probably an apocryphal storyA little boy was taken to a Paderewski concert by his mother. He slipped away from her, made his way to the platform, sat down at the concert piano and began to play Twinkle Twinle. The crowd reacted with anger and said to take the boy away. Paderewski, when he realised what was going on, went to the piano and began playing along with the boy, whispering to him, “Keep going. Don’t quit, son. Keep playing. Don’t stop. Don’t quit.”
As Andy put it very moved at the end "Pastor your socks off!"

Banner UK 2017 Session 7 David Johnston

David Johnston's second message was from Nehemiah. He raised the subject of revival and took us to the events of Nehemiah 8 an example of such a thing. He made a general observations
On the way they listened
There was adoration
It was like what John Stott describes as "the most privileged and moving experience a preacher can ever have" that is "when, in the middle of the sermon, a strange hush descends upon the congregation ... the preacher is forgotten, and the people are face to face with the living God, listening to his still, small voice."
There was weeping
David also quoted from Jim Packer on revival who has said "The root of spiritual revival both in individuals and in communities (individuals, that is, in the mass) was, is, and always will be vivid realisations of God’s holiness, goodness and mercy, and the perversity, shamefulness, offensiveness and suicidal folly that he sees in our personal sins." (A Passion for Faithfulness Crossway Books 1995 p 155)
Dr. Menninger, a well-known and highly respected Psychiatrist, wrote that “The very word ’sin,’ which seems to have disappeared, was a proud word. It was once a strong word, an ominous and serious word. It described a central point in every civilized human being’s life plan and lifestyle. But the word went away. It has almost disappeared - the word, along with the notion.” “Why?” asks Dr. Menninger. “Doesn’t anyone sin any more? Doesn’t anyone believe in sin?”
These people knew what sin was as do all in revival and so they mourned.
There was jubilation
This follows on later in the passage. Grief for sin and joy in forgiveness are not far from each other. The God who convicts is the God who saves us from it.
There was restitution
A feature of revival is practical restitution as when in Northern Ireland in the twenties there was revival. Many of the workers at the Harland and Wolff's shipyard, at that time one of the largest in Europe, had come under the influence of the gospel. A special depot was set up to deal with the large quantity of stolen goods that were returned by workmen who had been converted. .
There was also transformation
Here there were references to revival in Coleraine in 1859.
(As I approached door after door, persons were watching for me and other ministers, to bring us to deal with some poor agonized stricken one; and when the morning dawned, and until the sun arose, I was wandering from street to street, and from house to house, on the most marvellous and solemn errand upon which I have ever been sent.)
It is always good to be reminded about revival.

Banner UK 2017 Session 6 S Ferguson

Having looked at the conversion of Paul we came tonight to his communion with Christ. He may well be saying in Philippians 3 that he was actually disinherited. He actually knew loss. It is possible to lose something and still highly value it. With Paul he both lost everything and willingly lost it. Here, said Dr Ferguson, Paul homologates (express agreement with or approval of) his loss. He shows a detachment that Calvin expresses as a "contempt for this present life" without despising life itself.
Thomas Chalmers speaks of the "expulsive power of a new affection" that lies behind this great change.
What is to have communion with Christ? Three things
1. Coming to know Christ
This is at the heart of New Covenant faith. In Galatians 4 he speaks of not knowing God and then coming to know him. In the Sermon on the Mount it is not that the false believer is refused entry because he does not know Christ but because Christ does not know him. This is not a reference to election bu the whole idea of being known by Christ. It is the same in Galatians 4.
His use of my Lord in verse 8 is a reminder that this is not really about Paul but about the Lord Jesus, the one to whom every knee shall bow.
If Christ is my Lord then it will show. He must be at the centre of Christian ministry not other things. We must truly be Christ centred.
Here is an encouragement and a challenge then.
2. It is rooted in a communion with Christ that involves being found in him.
This is exepegetical (explanatory) of knowing Christ and being united to him. The being found in him here is for justification. The importance of faith is that it is all of grace. Faith itself is not a contributory factor.
The importance of this is that this righteousness is not in us but in him. It is imputed to us but it remains his. Therefore it cannot be added to or taken away. When we grasp this it delivers us, at a stroke, from the idea that progress in sanctification contributes to our justification.
When we see this we see what an impact the Roman view had on Luther and then what an even greater impact the true Protestant doctrine had.
"I meditated night and day on those words until at last, by the mercy of God, I paid attention to their context: "The justice of God is revealed in it, as it is written: 'The just person lives by faith.'" I began to understand that in this verse the justice of God is that by which the just person lives by a gift of God, that is by faith. I began to understand that this verse means that the justice of God is revealed through the Gospel, but it is a passive justice, i.e. that by which the merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written: "The just person lives by faith." All at once I felt that I had been born again and entered into paradise itself through open gates. Immediately I saw the whole of Scripture in a different light."
If we are righteous in Christ we are as righteous as Jesus Christ himself! This is why we boldly approach the eternal throne and make our claims.
3. It means becoming conformed to Christ
10, 11 I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Paul begins with the risen Christ. That is where the Christian life begins. Here he is speaking about the outward change that comes to the Christian (as well as within). There is no suggestion that he is going to contribute anything but he has this idea of greater and greater service and suffering in order to share in the fruit and triumph of Christ. Even in the Old Testament we see it. Take Joseph as an example or Ruth and Naomi. Daniel.
You embrace Christ in his totality,Paul sees. There is an imprinting by the Spirit according to the pattern with the Son. Think of the oil of suffering and glory flowing down from the High Priest's head to the people.
Paul speaks of this too in 2 Corinthians 12 - strength made perfect in weakness. There is not just a strength that comes from being in Christ but a weakness too. 2 Corinthians 4:10-12
We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
There is a cruciformity principle that will produce life in others. Where did Paul learn this? We come back to Stephen. This is the single clearest illustration (apart from Christ himself) of death producing life
We closed with an illustration where a converted Arab recently knelt for baptism (sprinkling) just as others have been seen kneeling to be beheaded. At ordinations the new minister often kneels - again a pointer to our calling.
Once again superb!

Banner UK 2017 Session 5 Stephen Clark

Our first evening session today was Stephen Clark on Christ's view of Scripture. He had three main points in this the first of two sessions he will give.
1. His personal use of Scripture
An obvious example would be the way he used Scripture when he was tempted in the wilderness. The temptations were to the person of Christ but concerned his human nature and he responded as a man and as a public man. The context in Luke which inserts a genealogy between the baptism and the temptation, one that goes back to Adam the Son of God. Satan's approach was to begin "If you are the Son of God". As well as being our federal head he is our example. He is full of the Spirit but (indeed because of that) he opposes Satan by means of using the ordinary means of Scripture.
Or think of the arrest of Christ. When he rebukes Peter with his sword, one of the things he says is How will the Scriptures be fulfilled? We do not always know what God is doing but we are always to fear God and do our duty.
Even when he dies he is quoting Scripture. There was a time when liberals claimed Old Testament verses were quoted in the New out of  context. That is not the case, the context is always in mind. Certainly at the cross the whole of Psalm 22 is in mind.
Scripture was part of his mindset, his thinking. It fed him throughout, as it must feed us.
2. His pastoral use of Scripture
Here Stephen simply went to one Scripture, Luke 24. Their eyes were kept from recognising him because he first wanted them to see him in Scripture. How their hearts burned within them when they saw Christ in his Word. There is a difference between teaching and preaching. Teaching does not leave the heart burning.
(This is a familiar note at the Banner and it was good to hear the note being sounded once more. There is a desperate need for preaching from the heart to the heart)
3. His use of Scripture in his public ministry and in controversy with false teachers
Think of how when discussing divorce, how he goes back to Scripture  - to Genesis 1 and 2,which he clearly treats as history.
In John 8:44 he talks of the devil as  liar and murderer from the beginning. He has the same  attitude then to Genesis 3. It is real and true. It really happened. We must assert the factuality of the creation and fall. We see the same thing in the way that Paul argues. Abel, the flood, Sodom, the Queen of Sheba, etc. He treats it all as history.
He asserted not only the veracity of Scripture but its authority. See Mark 7. The issue with tradition is not how old it is but whether it is biblical. Jaroslav Pelikan said “Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living."
Matthew 22 and the argument with the Sadduccees can only be understood if we accept that it is unnatural for man to be dead. It is an example of Jesus reasoning from Scripture.
Again, in John 10 there is that striking statement that the Scripture cannot be broken. (Stephen called the argument an ad hominem argument).
We also had a reference to Mark 2 and how we understand Jesus's argument from David. The key is to do with an order in ethical understanding - anointed king over temple over Sabbath. We must keep the least of the commandments but we must not forget the greater ones. Proportionality is important. John Stott once spoke about the need for a preacher to be both dogmatic and tentative. If we fail to differentiate we can give too great a weight to a truth. We must be weightier on the more weighty matters. Major on the majors and minor on the minors.
There was a little at the end on the NEw Testament too.
"Our greatest comfort in life is in Greek words" according to C S Lewis. We can add Hebrew and some Aramaic ones too.

Banner UK 2017 Session 4 David Johnston

David Johnston, from Hamilton Road in Bangor, Northern Ireland, began with an anecdote about a great preacher he knew who heard him preach and wrote to him to keep working at his preaching, the most important thing you do. David reads the letter every now and again to remind himself of the need to keep working at it. Matthew 13:52 is a challenge.
The debate over preaching continues unabated. What we were given this morning was an exploration of Hebrews in terms of it being a written sermon. (See William Lane).

He highlighted a number of ingredients that ought to feature in our preaching.
1. Grounded in Scripture
“All Christian preaching should be the exposition and application of biblical texts. Our authority as preachers sent by God rises and falls with our manifest allegiance to the text of Scripture.” ― John Piper
2. Centred on Christ
We must beware of mere anecdotal preaching.
Christ must be explicit in all our God-talk. It will not do, in this day of pluralism, to talk about the glory of God in vague ways. God without Christ is no God. And a no-God cannot save or satisfy the soul. Following a no-God - whatever his name or whatever his religion - will be a wasted life. God-in-Christ is the only true God and the only path to joy. ― John Piper
3. Applied to life
Notice the constant use of therefore. All sorts of applications made, especially at the end.
John Piper again (not all the quotes were Piper) says

Years ago during the January prayer week at our church, I decided to preach on the holiness of God from Isaiah 6. I resolved on the first Sunday of the year to unfold the vision of God’s holiness found in the first four verses of that chapter:
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.
So I preached on the holiness of God and did my best to display the majesty and glory of such a great and holy God. I gave not one word of application to the lives of our people. Application is essential in the normal course of preaching, but I felt led that day to make a test: Would the passionate portrayal of the greatness of God in and of itself meet the needs of people? I didn’t realise that not long before this Sunday one of the young families of our church discovered that their child was being sexually abused by a close relative. It was incredibly traumatic. They were there that Sunday morning and sat under that message. I wonder how many advisers to us pastors today would have said, “Pastor Piper, can’t you see your people are hurting? Can’t you come down out of the heavens and get practical? Don’t you realise what kind of people sit in front of you on Sunday?”
Some weeks later I learned the story. The husband took me aside one Sunday after a service. “John, these have been the hardest months of our lives. Do you know what has gotten me through? The vision of the greatness of God’s holiness that you gave me the first week of January. It has been the rock we could stand on.”
4. Empowered by the Spirit
See for example 3:7 So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice, ....
Preaching ultimately depends on the Spirit not the preacher. Or take the immaturity of the Hebrews.
One factor is that they no longer try to understand. John Stott says

How different it is when both preacher and people are expecting to hear the voice of God and they’ve come to church in order to hear God’s voice addressing them. Why then the whole situation is transformed and the atmosphere becomes electric. The people bring their Bible to church, and when they open it for the lesson or for the sermon, they sit on the edge of their seats or pew hungrily waiting for the Word of God. And the preacher also prepares in such a way that he is expecting God to speak. He prays beforehand in his study that God will come and address His people.
5. Prayer
The Lord give me a dozen importunate pleaders and lovers of souls, and by his grace we will shake all London from end to end yet. - Spurgeon

Banner UK 2017 Session 3 Garry Williams

On our first full day of conference our first speaker was Dr Garry Williams on the subject of a functional doctrine of Scripture. We began with a reminder that at the root of the Reformation was a rediscovery of Scripture as originally given. Unlike Luther the scholastic Zwingli and Calvin were humanist scholars and all their lives they took a humanist approach. Luther too was involved very much in a close engagement with Scripture.
Garry's plan is to look at the literary Word of God this time and the living Word of God next time. Some take the view that a commitment to one mitigates against a commitment to the other . However, the more committed we are to the literary, the better we will be able to treat it as the living Word. This is assuming the ordinary means. One caveat is that God cannot be put in a box and it is true that God can use the weakest of sermons, even errors in sermons! Even unregenerate preachers can be used!
Nevertheless, if we slacken our grip on the literary Word then we are failing to grapple with it at all.
Further caveats. There are many wrong ways of seeing the Bible in literary terms. It is not just an ANE text, it is a divine ANE text. We cannot read it just like any other book. We have a vigorous doctrine of the origin of Scripture and so we should have an equally vigorous one of Scripture and how it is to be interpreted. It is not enough to look at Scripture in purely human terms. We need to have in mind the divine dimension. n the other hand, we must take careful note of the context. Vern Poythress argues that "Because God is all-wise, he takes into account social and historical circumstances when he communicates to people in particular circumstances. In fact, he takes circumstances into account thoroughly, much more so than a merely human author with human limitations."
Further, we cannot get always so caught up in detail that we fail to get the message across. The message this morning is really just a reminder that we must, nevertheless, give full attention to detail. John's comment at the end of his Gospel about there being more to tell than can be recorded alerts us to the fact that every little detail is important.

1. The details of a text can locate the text in its right place
Eg 2 Samuel 11
... From the roof he saw a woman washing. The woman was very beautiful, (good) and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, ‘She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.’ Then David sent messengers to get her ....
David is like Adam and so as great a king as he was, he is not the King we need as Christ is.
2.  The details of a text often reveal the nature of it
Eg Genesis 11:1-9
This passage also raises the theological question of what punishment is and shows that punishment is an answer to sin. Jonathan Edwards said "Sin says, God is a despicable being, and not worthy that the sinner should fear him; and so affronts him without fear." God answers such affrontery.
3. The details of a text can show us the character of God
That is something that is also seen in the Genesis passage. The quid pro quo of the passage shows that God is what Owen calls "a rational fire".

1 Read more in biblical studies we were told.
2 Isn't this a remedy to tediousness?
3 Delight in the fact we have a detailed text. We need such a book to describe such a God.

Banner UK 2017 Session 2 S Ferguson

Our evening speaker is Sinclair Ferguson. After a word of introduction to the conference and a prayer from Iain Murray, he took us to Philippians 3 with the intention of looking over the coming three nights at three dimensions of Paul's autobiographical testimony

1. His conversion to Christ
2. His communion with Christ
3. His consolidation in Christ

So this first evening it was Paul's conversion to Christ. The context here is that of the danger of false teaching, in particular the Judaising tendency of dogs and distorters of the flesh. Three things
1 What he was without Christ - ambitious and angry. Lloyd-Jones once spoke of the Christian as a man who has had his mouth shut. That was Paul, who appeared to have so much in his favour with regard to pedigree and performance but came to see he was nothing. Christ took hold of him. He was stopped in his tracks and yet embraced at the same time by Christ.
Importantly, how was he taken hold of Christ? Stendahl and a mass of scholars in his wake have contended that Saul was not actually converted but simply accepted Christ as Messiah. There is enough evidence in the New Testament, however, to trace the line of his conversion. In persecuting Christians Paul was going beyond his teacher Gamaliel. A careful reading of Acts reveals Paul to be a very angry persecutor who outstripped his contemporaries in his zeal.
It is often asked why it was the tenth commandment that gave Paul so much trouble. If we read Acts with care then we will see that Luke draws attention to certain things in connection with Stephen (eg 6:9) because this was the first man he came across who was actually beyond him and so on reflection saw that he was guilty of covetousness.
It is Paul's realisation of God's mercy that is the secret of his genius. No-one came as close to destroying the church as Saul and et God had mercy on him. What a motive to prayer.
2 What he became in Christ -
There was a new spiritual accountancy
There was a dissatisfied satisfaction - Christianity is Christ.
We had the Jack Nicklaus story, which is lovely. All it was was a look from the great Jack but his boy looked up and said "Do you know Jack Nicklaus?" Well, of course, he didn't. But he knows Christ adn that's the best. (Worth hearing again).
This was a superb exposition by a superb theologian and preacher. It was a privilege to be here.

Banner UK 2017 Session 1 Jeff Kingswood

Banner Trustee and Canadian pastor Jeff Kingswood kicked off this years' conference by taking us to Ezra 7:10 For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.
He was brief and had three main points. Ezra, he said, loved the Word and was a practitioner of the Word and one who taught it too. He was a Banner man!
He spoke of delight in the Word that studies it but that also leads to a practice of the Word that grows out of that study. If we are being transformed by the Word, it will show in our lives. I the first two are in place then we will also teach it as we should.
He quoted George Swinnock and Samuel Rutherford who said "Serve Christ, back him, let his cause be your cause; give not an hair-breadth of truth away; for it is not yours, but God's."

At the Banner

New venue this year and a few new faces but many familiar faces and the same teachings I hope. The conference is being streamed.
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Lord's Day April 23 2017

Before church yesterday I tried to access an app I have on my phone called prayer mate. I had inadvertently wiped the data, which was a blow. Anyway in church I preached in the morning from Acts 3 and in my notes I had noted down that a computer wiped was a good illustration of how God wipes away the sins of those who turn to him. As I preached I recalled the distressing experience of earlier that day but then thought of what I called a sin app (sounds a little like synapse in the plural). Every sin you commit gets recorded on the sin app and each time you look at it the list gets longer. Then one day you look at it and it has been wiped. It is the very opposite of the feeling I had experienced earlier. I think the illustration helped.
I really enjoyed being back preaching and especially the wonderful old hymns we sang, including three resurrection hymns. In the evening I went to the phrase but some doubted in Matthew 28:17. not sure why it was in my head. The evening meeting was preceded by communion.
Turn out was not amazing. Not sure where some were. Our sleepless Slovak friend turned up again - still not sleeping, even with my preaching.

Glossary Chapters 2-4 Burmese Days

1. Chokra Young man, boy "The invisible chokra who pulled the punkah rope outside was falling asleep in the glare."
2. Eheu! fugaces labuntur anni Alas! our fleeting years pass away (Latin) "Ah well, eheu fugaces! Those days are gone for ever, I am afraid."
3. Havildar British Indian Army rank equivalent to Sergeant, next above Naik (Indian)
4. Bo-kadaw A white man's wife (Burmese)
5. Machan  A safety platform in a tree used when hunting big animals such as tigers and leopards Indian)
6. Catlap Milk or weak tea, "only fit for the cat to lap" (English)
7. Dudh Milk? (Indian)
8. Talab Payment; wages? (Burmese?) "...wail something about his 'talab', which was eighteen rupees a month."
9. Civis Romanus sum I am a Roman citizen (Latin) "Good gracious, no one would believe anything against ME. Civis Romanus sum. I'm an Englishman - quite above suspicion."
10. Durwan A live-in doorkeeper (Indian)
(Also Pax Britannica The British Peace (Latin); Pukka Genuine; authentic (Indian) B.F. Bloody Fool? (English) "With the curious air of spite that some men can put into their tiniest action, he re-pinned the notice on the board and pencilled a tiny, neat 'B. F.' against Mr Macgregor's signature.")

Glossary Chapter 1 Burmese days

I'm currently reading George Orwell's Burmese Days. He uses quite a few unfamiliar terms. Here are a number from Chapter 1
1. Dak Bungalow - A traveller's rest-house (for a postal service)
2. Topi - A light-weight hat
3. Sahib European man spoken to or of by Indians
4. Burra Great, used as title of respect; e.g. Burra sahib: important official, manager, chief. (Indian)
5. Pwe Burmese dance (Burmese)
6. Punkah Large fan consisting suspended from the ceiling
7. Longyi/Longyi Coolie  Sheet of cloth worn around the waist/Unskilled labourer (Burmese)
8. Dah Large knife with curved blade?
9. Sepoy Private soldier of the Indian infantry
10. Mali Gardener
(Also Rickshaw Two-wheeled cart for one passenger; pulled by one person; Dacoit Armed robber)

10 Italian musical terms

1. Calando (getting softer, dying away)
2. Giocoso (playful, humorous)
3. Incalzando (getting quicker)
4. Legato (smoothly)
5. Ostinato (persistent)
6. Rallentando (gradually getting slower)
7. Rubato (with some freedom of time)
8. Sforzando (forced, accented)
9. Stringendo (gradually getting faster)
10. Volti subito (turn the page at once)

Another cassette

Another cassette I found is Volume 1 of a two volume collection of 28 classic rock numbers. I don't think I ever owned Volume 2. I bought it in a sale and Volume 2 was missing then.
Volume 2 contained T Rex/Ride a white swan, The Who/My generation, Peter Frampton/Show me the way. Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel/Make Me Smile, Canned Heat/Let's Work Together, Fleetwood Mac/Albatross – which I would have loved (the rest are okay - Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity/This Wheel's On Fire, Pink Floyd/Money, Dire Straits/Lady Writer, Lou Reed/ Walk On The Wild Side, Lynyrd Skynyrd/Freebird. Meatloaf/Dead Ringer For Love, Far Corporation/Stairway To Heaven, Deep Purple/Smoke On The Water).
If I remember rightly I bought the cassette for Free/My Brother Jake plus Derek And The Dominos/Layla, Thin Lizzy/Waiting For An Alibi, Status Quo/Caroline, Santana She's Not There, Electric Light Orchestra/Roll Over Beethoven, Jethro Tull/Living In The Past, Rod Stewart/Maggie May, Black Sabbath/Paranoid. I'm alsop happy enough with Mott The Hoople/All The Young Dudes, The Jimi Hendrix Experience/Voodoo Chile, Cream/Strange Brew , Rainbow/Since You Been Gone/Traffic/Paper Sun.
In some ways this is a broad range of rock and shows what good stuff was going down back in the late sixties and early seventies. I currently have on my ipod and listen to exactly half (ie 14) of these tracks.

Planxty After the break

I still have this box full of old cassette tapes, mostly classical, that needs sorting. (Remember cassettes anyone?). Among them is a copy of Irish group Planxty's fourth album from 1979 After the break. I have no idea when I bought it (obviously after 1979 and no doubt before 1990, probably in 1980 or 1981) but I remember playing it with enjoyment. It has been good to enjoy them again. There are eight tracks (two tracks recorded at the time were added to the CD). They are somewhere between Chieftains and Horslips I guess. I remember one of my sons enjoying the first album a while back and I have Follow me up to Carlow on my ipod. They are probably due a retro exploration some time soon.

Midweek Meeting Wednesday April 19 2017

We were a good number last Wednesday (14) as we tackled the next of the solas - Solo Christo (by Christ alone). What I did was to focus on three classic texts - Acts 4:12, 1 Timothy 2:5 and John 14:6. This is all basic stuff but at the heart of what we teach and believe. We had one or two questions at the end as we sometimes do. That was followed by a time of prayer with most people taking part, though certainly not all. I fear that prayer can become a bit of a Cinderella in our thinking at times. I need to put more emphasis on it I'm sure.

Lord's Day April 16 2017

Having been in the wedding we have stayed on in Crosshills or South Craven, thanks to the kindness of our son's future in-laws. We went to South Craven Evangelical morning and evening. We have known of this church for many, many years initially I think because of a medical student from the church who came to London to study. I would also get news from one of my deacons who often holidays in the area and the now former minister who I would see at the Banner Conference. It was a very small fellowship at one time and could not afford a full time pastor at one time.
Anyway this morning they met in a local school and were over a hundred, though many were visitors from the wedding. It was a a "family service" so a bit out of the ordinary, Beauty and the Beast was the theme. The evening was more conventional, back at the church for communion first and then the service, which was led by Martin Woodier, one of the current ministers, with the other  Paul Gamston preaching. He went through Exodus 23, the next reading in the daily reading scheme that people are being encouraged to follow. A good day.

Yorkshire Wedding

In Yorkshire again this weekend and again at a wedding. This time, it was Pieter de Jong, who grew up in Childs Hill, and Coralie Severs. My oldest son is Pieter's lifelong friend and he was best man. My niece is a good friend of Coralie's and was one of a host of bridesmaids. It was a great day.

46 years ago today

[Pics: I used to sit in the third pew on the right; the room where I was converted then just had bare floorboards; idyllic looking the 1836 building is now surrounded by a housing estate]
My parents were not Christians but they were moral people and they brought me up in line with the Ten Commandments, including the idea that Sunday is special and that I ought to go to Sunday School. I never got on with Sunday School as a child but I did start attending the Friday night meetings for young people and the Sunday evening service when I was 11 or 12. Then one night I was converted. It was April 16, 1971.
It was the early seventies so my hair would have been touching the panda collar of my Ben Sherman shirt. I would have worn flares and stack heel lace-ups and possibly a tank top knitted by my mum. It was a long time ago! After a sausage and chips meal, we sat and listened to the visiting speaker.
It was Spring time and I remember sneezing a lot with hay fever but I was still gripped. I don't recall very much about what the speaker actually said though I'm sure he urged us all to trust in the Lord Jesus. Afterwards he gave us something to read and the minister of the church urged me to look at John 3, which I probably did. I certainly prayed, confessing what a rotten sinner I was and asking that I might be born again. I don't remember church the day after next but certainly the matter was still on my mind when I headed for school the following Monday. I was determined to let others know that I was now trusting in Christ.
Not being from a Christian home this change was quite a dramatic one in some ways. Just over a year later I was baptised by immersion at the same chapel where I had been converted. From early on I felt called to be a preacher.
About 10 years on, after time away studying in Aberystwyth University and London Theological Seminary, I became a minister. I am still not what I would call a religious person, although I obviously pray and go to church. What I'm trusting in is not my religion but the grace of God in Jesus Christ my Saviour.

Show me the way 1976

1976 once again

I am thirsty

This is from my Published Articles blog
This is from my Spurgeon once spoke of what was bitter to Jesus being made sweet to his people. That is our aim as we consider the fifth and shortest of the seven sayings of the cross, that exclusive to John 19:28 … Jesus said ‘I am thirsty’.
The darkness over, following his cry of dereliction, we come to the final period of suffering. John begins Later, knowing now that all was completed and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled …. Always self-possessed, even in agony on the cross, Jesus realises that virtually all that was left to do was to say three more things then die (importantly, to die in broad daylight). He always kept in mind the need to fulfil Scripture. John normally makes a specific reference but here he is general.
The response follows. A soldier lifts a wine-vinegar soaked sponge to Jesus’s lips. The wine was either the soldiers’ or for victims. Some question if hyssop is strong enough to lift a wet sponge but Jesus was probably not far off the ground. The drink would give immediate relief but its astringent action would then tighten the throat muscles making things worse. 

Never forget that Jesus is a man, a real man. He did not speak for effect but really was thirsty. As he was hungry in the desert at the beginning of his ministry, now at the end he is thirsty. At other times, he was weak, tired, angry, sad. Hebrews 2:17,18 says he was made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

That Jesus was thirsty is no surprise when we think of all he had suffered since his arrest – trials, mocking, flogging, carrying the cross, crucifixion – all presumably with no drink When offered a drugged drink to dull the pain he rejected it wanting to remain alert. His sufferings were real. Lamentations 1:12, 13 predicts it … Is any suffering like my suffering that was inflicted on me, that the LORD brought on me in the day of his fierce anger? From on high he sent fire, sent it down into my bones. … He made me desolate, faint all the day long. His sufferings were not only physical but mental and spiritual. We can speak of the ‘drought of his soul in the fierce heat of God’s wrath’. He bore God’s wrath in place of sinners on the cross and was, in a sense, in hell, longing for someone to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool his tongue, because he was in agony (Luke 16:24).
The response increased his suffering. All creation was desperate to slake his thirst – every stream and river, every angel - but a wretched man with a wretched drink acted. Do we appreciate how much he suffered.

The phrase was not merely gasped. Relevant Scriptures include Psalms 22:15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth …. 63:1 O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 69:21 They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst. We are best to see it, perhaps, in Westcott’s words, as a ‘perfect completion of the whole prophetic image’. Scripture was always in Jesus’s consciousness. Do we have the same reverence for the Word?

Remember Satan tempting Jesus to make bread in the desert? A similar temptation came now - not the sort we know much about. Jesus resists. He yields his will to the Father’s. Because he submitted, we are forgiven. Surely, we should submit too.

As suggested, we must look beyond physical thirst to heart desire. It was always there. He longed to see his work completed and know the fellowship of his people. An old writer says ‘He thirsts after our thirst’. Christ longs for you, believer, to reach out in faith to him. 

Jesus thirsted in our place, as our substitute. He thirsted so we no longer need to. His tongue was parched because of what sinners like us do with our tongues. Think what you have done with yours. He was punished for his people. 
John 4 presents Christ as the great soul-thirst quencher. There is a deep need and longing in every heart. It cannot be properly quenched by what this world offers. We need the water only Christ provides. It is said that when William Coulthard perished in the Australian desert in 1858 he had scratched the words ‘Lost, lost for want of water’ on his empty canteen. That is our position by nature. Yet we need not perish in the desert of this life if we go to the one who died in the place of sinners. Hear his words (John 7:37, 38) if anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me … streams of living water will flow from within him.

First published in Grace Magazine

Midweek Meeting April 12 2017

We were not so many on Wednesday as several are away at present. We were still nine, however, and we pressed on with the third of these solas grace alone. It is a wonderful theme. I chiefly focused on Ephesians 2:8-10, verses that are always good to go back to. People were keen to pray. I think all nine of us prayed at least once. There's no better place to be than with God's people.

Funeral for our oldest church member

On Wednesday we said goodbye to our longest serving member Ken Rawlings. Ken died at the end of March. He was 84 and joined the church, I believe, back in 1954, over sixty years ago. (The oldest members currently joined the church in the early eighties. The oldest member in years is 90). Ken was a bachelor, one of three sons (both of whom died before him) and the son of a local man and a Welsh mother. He had health problems all his life and latterly was under constant care at home. We will miss him. I preached on the text in 1 Thessalonians 4:11, 12 ... make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: you should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. It was a small funeral. We sang Guide me O Thou great Jehovah and Stand up stand up at the chapel and Great is Thy faithfulness at the graveside.

Bulkington Church History Lecture Anne Steele

It was good to be in Bulkington Congregational church up in the Midlands last night once again. It is remarkable how they are able to gather a score or two people from various churches in the area with an interest in church history. The pastor Peter Mckenzie chaired and I spoke on Anne Steele and got over the story quite well, I hope. It was good to chat with people over a cuppa afterwards as well. It was a pleasant drive up in the sunshine too.

Broughton in Hampshire

Had a nice afternoon down in Broughton last week.

Huguenots at the Evangelical Library

We had an excellent lecture this afternoon at the Library from Norman Hopkins at the Evangelical Library on the Huguenots in Kent. Norman has addressed this subject many times and has quite a knowledge of it. Some of us are quite ignorant and it was fascinating to get some of the background to the story of French Protestants and how the fled persecution. The word refugee is from this language and period and so the whole thing had something of a contemporary ring about it. Very many avenues were explored - their faith, their skill, their history, etc. Recordings are always made and can be obtained from the Library if you are interested. I noticed it was also videoed and a vdeo would be the ideal. We had a good crowd and as it was Philip's birthday we celebrated afterwards with a cake that someone had kindly provided.
Peter du Moulin above is one of several Huguenots mentioned specifically.

Interesting news from the John Owen Centre


Dear Friends,
I am very pleased to announce that we have established a Doctoral Study Centre at the John Owen Centre affiliated with Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The Doctoral Study Centre provides a gateway for those studying at London Seminary to the considerable primary and secondary sources held at PRTS in their Puritan Research Centre, specializing in the Dutch ‘Second Reformation’, English Puritanism, and American Puritanism.
Alongside that wider access for students, the Doctoral Study Centre offers a PhD programme in Reformation and Post-Reformation historical theology. The programme is distinctive for its evangelical and Reformed theological approach, its concern to blend academic rigour with biblical piety, and, compared to a UK PhD, its significant taught component.
To find out more about the shape of the PhD programme, click here. For the full details, visit the PRTS site.
The PhD programme is suitable for pastors pursuing higher level study, so it takes its place among our diverse range of activities at different levels, including Study Days, Study Projects, and the ThM with Westminster Theological Seminary.
Do join us in praying that, as with all our activities, this new venture would serve the goal of enriching ministries for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ in his church.
Every blessing,
Garry Williams.

Lord's Day April 9 2017

I began yesterday apologising for my face, which I could do every Sunday I guess but I didn't want people to be sat there thinking "What's he done?" Of course, by the time of the sermon another dozen or so had arrived so I went through it again.
Numbers were good in the morning even though several stalwarts were away. We had four Iranians (we seem to have lost some), plenty of Nigerians and all sorts of others, including ladies from Pakistan and India who I always love to see talking together (our lady from Bangla Desh was away). I preached from the first half of Acts 3 and was basically evangelistic.
We had lunch together, about 30 or more of us. That was a nice time. Lots of nice chats including an interesting one with a business woman about her tribal history and the fact she cannot even go to her home territory these days due to a political problem with a long history. I forget how privileged I am sometimes. One of our new people discovered to her surprise that Eleri is my wife (I told her she just thought Eleri is out of my league!) I also discovered that one of our ladies has been sending her love to a new attendee's wife not realising they are actually divorced.
In the evening we were down to about 13. I thought we might have been more. I preached a one off from Mark 10:13-16. I was very pleased to see a child in the congregation (ie under 10). It was a short sermon, which is something nobody ever complains about.
It was only when I put the news on later that I recalled it was Palm Sunday.


Don't cross the road using your 'phone

Midweek Meeting April 5 2017

With several away, I was mot expecting a good turn out tonight and so I decided to preview a paper I am preparing on the hymn writer Anne Steele. As it turned out we were 10 altogether, seven women and three men, including some who'd not been there in the past. I tried to say something helpful about singleness and suffering. We had a good time of prayer with most leading in prayer.There was plenty to pray about.

10 Shakespearean American Cities

Several places in America have names used by Shakespeare in his plays. Here are ten

1. Alexander Troilus & Cressida North Dakota
2. Cicero Julius Caesar Illinois
3. Desdemona Othello Texas
4. Mountjoy Henry V Illinois
5. Oberon Midsummer nights dream North Dakota
6. Orlando As you like it Florida (see pic of Shakespeare theatre there)
7. Paris Romeo & Juliet, Troilus & Cressida Texas
8. Tamora Titus Andronicus Nebraska
9. Helena Midsummer Night's Dream, All's Well that Ends Well Montana
10. Montague Romeo & Juliet Massachusetts

Lord's Day April 2 2017

It was quite sunny on Sunday. We began, as we do at the beginning of the month, with communion. We had a large congregation in the morning (we ran out of Bibles again must get more) and a decent one later at 6.30 pm. Our Iranians were back, four of them anyway, and several others but there were still some missing (Iranians and others). There were two new ladies in the morning, one from Colombia and one who had gone before the end.  In the morning I dragged them all out for a photo outside. I preached on the final part of Acts 2. I had multiple points disguised as five main points. In the evening we had another go at 1 Peter 2:7, which went okay. My father-in-law turned up in the evening, so I had my son and father-in-law there.

Appropriate song for today

Defenestration of Prague and the Missouri Compromise

I was reading two history books recently when I came across two phrases I know and have known for years. If you woke me at 4 am, however, I couldn't give you an adequate explanation.
I refer to
The Defenestrations of Prague is an incidents in the history of Bohemia in which multiple people were defenestrated (ie thrown out a window). It happened in 1618 (but can refer to an earlier incident in 1419). It helped trigger prolonged conflict, within Bohemia and beyond.
The Missouri Compromise is the title generally attached to the legislation passed by the 16th Congress of the United States May 8, 1820. The measures provided for the admission of the District of Maine as a state free to ratify a state constitution that both did not recognise and prohibited slavery within the state. Further, it provided that the Missouri territory was free to enact a state constitution that both recognised as legal and permitted (through affirmative state legislation and state government regulation), the institution of chattel slavery. In addition, it outlawed as a matter of Federal law both the recognition and legality of the institution of chattel slavery in the Federal territory that remained of the Louisiana Purchase that was still unorganised and north of the 36°30′ parallel (excluding Missouri, hence "Missouri Compromise") within the Purchase lands.
It is one of the events that led to the Civil War.