Bonhoeffer uses a similar phrase 'worldly Christianity'. 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.

O Avondrood

Just now and again you come across something you've never seen on YouTube. This is a video with the Focus track Avondrood (Red evening). I'm not use what the live at Top of the Pops tag means.


Let me give you a piece from a recent newspaper review
... quoting Biblical-sounding verse and promising to change our lives, awaken our inner powers, heal ourselves.
With a hot light shining on us, eyes still closed, we are ordered to banish our pain and ailments. To feel them leaving our bodies. And then sit back down again.
Next, he asks if anyone feels different, feels ‘cured’, feels released from their pain. And, amazingly, people really seem to.
Five minutes later we watch slack-jawed as a lady with rheumatoid arthritis can move her hands and feet freely and without pain for the first time in five years. And a bearded chap called Jack with a titanium plate in his skull feels the pressure in his head ease for once.
Suddenly, a pretty girl called Emily with glasses doesn’t need them. Eleven years of chronic neck pain floats into the ether from a stocky rugby player. An Aussie girl with a frozen shoulder regains full movement.
We clap and cheer and whoop — cynics included — as he yells: ‘Praise the Lord!’ ... Even I start wondering if my sore knee is cured. It isn’t.
As Brown shouts ‘We thank you, Father, we thank you. We are surrounded by a golden light!’ volunteers are hypnotised and knocked out in seconds, lowered gently to the floor. One man levitates — I’ve no idea how.
... At one stage, more than 30 people are queueing patiently in the stalls to be ‘healed’. They volunteer themselves, but of course he already knows their names, their ailments, their brothers’ names, their mum’s back problems. Afterwards, they skip back to their seats, beaming and golden from his touch.
It's not Benny Hinn or anyone like that. No, it's Derren Brown. As the reviewer (Jane Fryer) concludes
The point, of course, is to prove Brown’s belief that faith healing and miracles are all in the mind — and the work of clever showmen like him, rather than God.
You may or may not agree, but the show (or the second half, anyway) was gripping, utterly inexplicable — however much we all picked over it afterwards — and, for a while, it really felt miraculous. And that’s not even revealing the brilliant twist at the end.
So I take it all back. No one could fail to be impressed. Other than a genuine charlatan Christian faith healer.
And, perhaps, Emily, who ten minutes later had her specs back on again.
Derren Brown is an atheist and a profane man but his desire to expose the charlatanism of so-called evangelicalism is perhaps something to be thankful for.

Retro Album "of the week" 39 Ekseption 3

We have referred before on this blog to Dutch band Ekseption's third album Ekseption 3 again from 1970 but not discovered by me until some time after that. The album is based around Le Petit Prince a brief allegorical work by Antoine de St Exupery.
It includes both instrumental and vocal tracks. The tracks are Peace Planet/B 612/Morning Rose/Piece For Symphonic And Rock Group In A Minor (A) Part One: Passacaglia (B) Part Two: Painting/Lamplighter/Bottle Mind/On Sunday They Will Kill The World/Another History/Rondo.
The band draw on Bach, Beethoven and Rachmaninoff as well as the skills of leader the late Rick van der Linden. It is the rich classical vein plus the use of St Exupery (who I knew nothing of prior to finding this album) that leads me to rate this album so highly. The use of a vocalist was a one off for Ekseption and it worked well.

Midweek Meeting November 25 2015

Thanks to the presence of a visiting couple we were back up to 17 last night, which was good. We continued in this brief series on the Three Rs (Revelation, Redemption and Regeneration) with the rest of what I wanted to say regarding revelation namely to do with authority, inerrancy, perspicuity and sufficiency (I think that was the order). We had a good time of prayer too. Lots to pray about.

Retro album "of the week" 38 A Beard of Stars

A Beard of Stars by Tyrannosaurus Rex came out in 1970 but I didn't discover it until three or four years later after Marc Bolan had found commercial success with T Rex (beginning with Ride a white Swan that same year). I really discovered all four Tyrannosaurus albums at more or less the same time. Beard of Stars the fourth of them is different to the other three in that it was the first to feature Bolan with Mickey Finn as percussionist rather than Steve Peregrine Took and is the transition album in that electric guitars and drumkit eature for the first time. (On the this front, there was an electric guitar first featured on the 1969 single King of the Rumbling Spires/Do You Remember)
One writer (Mark Deming of AllMusic) says that A Beard of Stars "was the turning point where Marc Bolan began evolving from an unrepentant hippie into the full-on swaggering rock star he would be within a couple of years, though for those not familiar with his previous work, it still sounds like the work of a man with his mind plugged into the age of lysergic enchantment." The truth about Marc Bolan I think is that he was willing to do whatever it took to get musical fame. It was the times that were achangin' (and Bob Dylan especially) rather than Bolan himself. 
Four tracks from this album, including "Great Horse", were apparently salvaged from spring 1969 sessions for a fourth album with Took in the wake of "King of the Rumbling Spires". These four tracks were overdubbed for release by Finn, Bolan and Visconti. A further four tracks from the Took sessions were rejected for the final album and only surfaced later on compilations, three ("Once Upon the Seas of Abyssinia", "Blessed Wild Apple Girl", "Demon Queen") in Bolan's lifetime, the fourth ("Ill Starred Man") posthumously.
I have always found the two instrumental openers (Prelude and Beard of Stars) particularly pleasing. Elemental Child is pretty much an instrumental but goes on far too long. Bolan is sometimes classed with the progressive music makers and these tracks give part of the reason why. Meanwhile A Daye Laye, By the light of the magical moon, Lofty Skies, Dove, etc, are all great numbers. The simple Organ blues was long a favourite.

Lord's Day November 22 2015

It was good to be back in harness last Sunday. There were no visitors (apart from a man who came and went before the sermon in the evening) but few absentees. We have now reached Revelation 4 in our morning studies and it was good to be reminding ourselves of fundamental truths then. In the evening we were in Judges 9, which is a long and quite difficult chapter but I think we got there. I sought to portray Abimelech as a false judge or savour as opposed to Christ the true and only complete Saviour. It is a glorious thing to break the bread o God's Word to the people of God Lord's Day by Lord's day.

Conversion of Dr Emile Cailliet

I don't know much about Dr. Emile Cailliet, a professor at Princeton Seminary who died in 1981, but he has a fascinating conversion story. Her eis the story as told by Ray Stedman in 1982.
In his youth he was a total unbeliever. In fact, he vehemently opposed any kind of faith. He fought in the French Army in World War I, and the terrible pain of human life and death around him confirmed his conviction that there was nothing in religion that could satisfy men. But he longed to have something that would help him in times of difficulty, so he compiled a notebook which he called, "The Book That Would Understand Me." Whenever he ran across a quotation that struck fire in his mind he would copy it down in his book. Still a young man when the war was ended, he sat down one day to read the collection that he had put together. As he read it, his heart sank. He saw that since it came from himself, it had no power to minister to him in times of pressure and stress; it seemed flat and empty.
About that time a remarkable thing occurred. Purely by accident, one day his wife wandered into a courtyard she had never seen before. She realised she was in a Huguenot church, and she saw an old man sitting at a table. For some reason, unknown to her, she walked up to him and asked, "Do you have any Bibles in French?" Without a word, the man picked up a Bible from the table and handed it to her. She was afraid to give it to her husband because he had ordered that religion not even be mentioned in their house, but she finally told him of this unusual experience. He said, "Give me the Bible. Let me read it."
For the first time in his life he began to read the Bible. He started in the Gospels, which fascinated him. For many hours he read through several of the books of the Bible. Finally he put it down, and, bowing his head, he said, "At last I have found the Book that understands me." He opened his heart to the Lord and became a Christian. Ultimately he became a professor in a seminary. He bore testimony to his dying day that he never varied from that view of the Bible: "This is the Book that understands me."

Midweek Meeting November 18 2015

I forgot to report on last Wednesday for some reason. We had 13 there and another good prayer time. Sadly, our Bulgarian friend was not there but perhaps she will come next week. We pray so. I decided that before the end of the year we could fit in a little series on the three Rs - Revelation, redemption and regeneration. I was thinking in terms of three sessions but I had so much material for the first message I only did about half what I intended. Not to worry. I finished with the striking story of the conversion of Emile Cailliet, brother of the composer Lucien, and professor I Princeton Seminary. It's a story worth knowing.

Evangelical Library Lecture on William Brock

We just managed to scrape into double figures this afternoon at the Evangelical Library. I spoke on William Brock 1807-1875 Devon-born minister of Baptist churches in Norwich and Bloomsbury. There are two main biographies, one by C M Birrell and a shorter one by George M'Cree. I emphasised how much Spurgeon liked him as I think he was basically one of the good guys. All the liberal emphases of the 19th century were brought to bear on him, however, and how unscathed he remained I don't know. He wrote once to his son, also a minister.
How well I understand your difficulties about election. I knew them at your age - I have known them ever since - I know them now. But there they are; and if you give up all belief in election there will be other difficulties of equal intricacy and force. Semblances are not always realities. To our ignorances there are perhaps actual contradictions: let us get rid of the ignorance, and the contradiction disappears. To leave a man, you think, is to reject him. Then 'men are rejected,' you infer; 'not being chosen of God they are surely doomed.' But so far from dooming men, God beseeches them to return to Him and live. As it thus appears that none are doomed, 'what follows,' you ask, but that 'none are elected'? Logically the case appears to you complete. But then, in come Scriptures in abundance to disturb the conclusions of your logic. There are men who have been chosen to salvation (2 Thess. I 3): and all men are invited to salvation (John vi. 37). What remains but that we put up with the difficulty reverentially; and expound God's Word according to its meaning text by text.
I hope to get the full text of the lecture out into the wider world soon.

Lord's Day November 15 2015

So not preaching today or in Childs Hill. Up in Aber listening again to Joel Beeke and in the afternoon in chapel, first for a family lunch and then a church tea with a lovely cake and a short speech and the gift of an apple picker as we again marked Geoff and Iola Thomas's fiftieth year in Aber. Joel preached on the Hebrews 12:1, 2 in the morning on how to endure, considering our mission, the manner of it negative and positive and the motives to it - in Christ himself (what he endured, what he rejoiced in and what he despised) and the saints around us past and present. In the evening it was that interesting text Luke 22:31, 32 and the one who can meet all your needs - Christ our Prophet, Priest and King. Great day.

Aber Jubilee

Three or four hundred gathered in Bethel Chapel, Aberystwyth last Saturday to celebrate Geoff Thomas's fifty years as pastor of Alfred Place Baptist Church. Geoff gave a God honouring account of himself (mentioning among other things what a blessing the students have been and attempting to list those who, like myself, have gone into the ministry after being in AP - Austin Walker, Chris Peggington, Graham Heaps, Keith Underhill, Keith Hoare, Alan Davey, Tim Mills., etc, etc. New Zealand got forgotten somehow [Stephen Turner, Dafydd Hughes, Geoff Lloyd] but we can forgive a few senior moments). It was good to worship God with hymns old and new.
In recent years Geoff has become good friends with Joel Beeke of Grand Rapids and it was good to have him present to preach from 2 Corinthians 6:8-10 on "Recognising the paradox of ministry"; "Not rejecting the paradox" by either attempting to escape the insignificance of ministry by self vaunting efforts or by denying your real greatness and "Rejoicing in the paradox" that comes in knowing that God has called you to be his servant and to "minister the simple Gospel to simple people in simple truth." It did me good and many others I hope.
We then adjourned to Alfred Place for a cuppa and cake. This was managed extraordinarily well by a family connected to the church. This was in the basement. After an hour we headed upstairs where several spoke. Austin Walker from Crawley began by  recalling what help he had received from Geoff as a student before heading off to Westminster. He was the first of several to choke a little. David Griffiths of OMF was very emotional describing what a help Geoff's little booklet on dealing with remaining sin had been for Filipino suffering with AIDS. Gareth Edwards spoke on his own behalf and the EMW (who as he put it are very thankful to be able to hold their conference as a sort of add-on to his own!). Meirion Thomas spoke again on his own behalf and the family's. Richard Holst was another who could speak with gratefulness of Geoff's help in student days. Robert Strivens had a brilliant story of Geoff jump starting his car at  Banner Conference when a young and diffident minister. He also brought a book of Calvin's sermons on Titus from the Banner trustees.
We were always in danger of exalting the man I guess but both he and we were always careful to give the glory to God and to recognise that a pastor is only any good if there are people to listen and to pray.
Celebrations continued the next day but I will old that over for another post.

Do you know who this preacher was?

If you don't know who this man was (or if you do) you are very welcome to come and find out at the Evangelical Library next Monday when (at 1 pm) I will be lecturing about him.

Midweek Meeting November 11 2015

We had a very good turn out on Wednesday and again an excellent time of prayer. I decided not to do any more on trees and so we just looked at a psalm, Psalm 11, where David is recommended to flee but he determines to trust God and take his stand, encouraging words. A lady we'd not before joined us, a  Bulgarian lady who is searching. She works on Sundays but can come midweek. She found us through the website. I hope she will come regularly. Her presence perhaps stirred us to pray more earnestly for two who were there last Sunday but who rarely come twice in a row We prayed too for Sihle Xulu who is preaching for us on the Lord's Day.

Lord's Day November 9 2015

Yesterday was a full day as we started with a Bitesize Theology Class on election and then after the morning service there was a fellowship lunch. After lunch we took opportunity to hear testimony from two members. The first has been in the church nearly as long as I have. She was converted in Boarding School when she was 16 through the witness of Chinese Malaysian friends. The second was only five when he first believed. Brought up in a Christian home he was baptised at 14. he and his wife moved to London in the last two years or so. The preaching yesterday was perhaps a vindication of systematic preaching in that in the morning we looked at the church in Laodices, the last of the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3, a church that was in major trouble and then in the evening we looked at Judges 8 and the success of Gideon followed by the failures of his latter year and beyond. You would not choose to preach on two such difficult subjects (lukewarmness and the danger of fading a the years go by) on the same day but we got through it. It was sobering and challenging and drove us (I hope) to Christ. One thing I failed to do in the morning was to expand on how it is that we can refresh Christ - such a remarkable subject. it is easy to assume too much.