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.

Midweek Meeting March 25 2015

Nearly forgot this, so busy. As we've come to the end of Philippians 2 and we're coming into the holiday period I thought I'd do something else. I plan to preach from 1 Peter 2:7 at the Banner and so I thought I'd explore the text probably over two or three weeks. So on Wednesday we made a start taking just five headings under which to place reasons for counting Christ precious. There is a helpful book on the subject by the 18th century Baptist John Fawcett. See here.

Are you going to Banner?

It's the Banner ministers conference next month (April 13-16). A chance to play this video again perhaps. Certainly do check this link out here with details on what is to be happening. Here's my own blurb

‘Unto you therefore which believe he is precious’ (1 Peter 2:7).

This is the text we will turn to at the beginning of the conference. It is the first text that C. H. Spurgeon ever preached in a formal church setting. As so much in that remarkable life, the circumstances were unusual. He was asked to walk out to a village near Cambridge accompanying a young man he supposed would preach that evening. On the way he discovered that the man had no intention of preaching or any ability to do so, and so Spurgeon himself had to preach.

Writing of the text many years later he said,

"if a raw recruit could speak upon anything, surely this theme would suit him. If one were dying this would be the text; if one were distracted with a thousand cares this would be the text."

The reason he said that is

"because its teaching is experimental – its meaning wells up from the inner consciousness, and needs neither a clear brain nor an eloquent tongue. To the believer it is not a thing which somebody else has taught him; it is a matter of fact, which he knows within his own soul, that Christ is precious to him, and he can bear testimony concerning it although not always such bold testimony as he could wish."

John Newton was one who did boldly testify to it many years before, writing of Jesus as his Shepherd, Husband, Friend; his Prophet, Priest and King; his Lord, his Life, his Way, his End.

Such truths are too easily lost in the midst of busy ministries and we need to be reminded what the short-lived Andrew Gray discovered in the early seventeenth century, that ‘Christ’s preciousness to the believer is the foundation of our faith’.

Retro album of the week 12 - Cuilidh

Cuilidh (the word means place of retreat) was Julie Fowlis's second album and came out in 2007. It features several songs in Gaelic (one acapella) and some instrumentals and not a word of English! Everything is played on traditional folk ounding instruments (though the piano also gets a look in). The two singles from it were "Turas san Lochmor" (all about sea travel apparently) and the delightful "Hùg Air A' Bhonaid Mhòir" (celebrate the big bonnet) which is Puirt a beul or Mouth Music (other such items occur - on one of them it sounds just like she's saying Barry Manilow. In Oran nan Raiders I can hear the name Lloyd George!). Another favourite of mine is "An t-Aparan Goirid 's an t-Aparan Ur: Oran do Sheasaidh Bhaile Raghnaill". 4."'Ille Dhuinn, 's toiigh Leam Thu" is also vey good.

Strict Baptist Historical Society 2015

It was good to be at the annual meeting of the Strict Baptist Historical Society in Bethesda, Kensingtion Place, last Friday. There was a good turn out to hear the speaker, Dr Crawford Gribben, who spoke on the subject of Owen and the Baptists. Gribben is a John Owen expert, well read in the great man's works and his careful, erudite paper was something of an encouragement to Baptists, given how highly respected the Congregationalist theologian is. The basic idea was that Owen generally avoided the baptism question  and especially so as he matured and actually met Baptists such as Henry Jessey. He appears to have moved from an advocacy of baptismal regeneration to a more middle of the road infant Baptist position. A posthumous work that appears to look at the subject is probably spurious. Sadly, Dr Gribben was unable to cast any light on the relationship between Owen and Bunyan. The lecture can be seen and heard on Vimeo here.

Lord's Day March 22 2015

Busy day yesterday starting with a bitesize theology class on the atonement. We had a bumper turn out. I then preached to a decent sized congregation, including some visitors, on the last chapter of Ezra (10 points all beginning with C and about dealing with sin). We have enjoyed the series on Ezra I believe. At 6 pm we had a prayer meeting about our currently defunct children's work. We have planned to meet monthly for prayer. In the evening meeting we looked at Matthew 5:38-42 and the verses about and eye for an eye and how we are to understand it. Again, decent numbers. To be honest I'm not entirely happy about this series from Matthew 5 - something missing somehow I fear. It probably needs to be more convicting.

Dave Gorman Too much information

I was in a charity shop the other day and I saw a signed copy of Dave Gorman's Too much information (published 2014) which I picked up for very little. Gorman is somebody I am only vaguely aware of but this book, mostly about the Internet, was informative, fascinating, amusing and enjoyable to read. Gorman started as a comedian but has settled into this sort of analysis approach, which is full of mild humour but appears to have a higher motive. I was very interested in a piece near the end that gives some insight into how things are promoted on Google.

Spurgeon and depression

I recently came across American Zack Eswine's Spurgeon's Sorrows a book for those who suffer from depression. I don't suffer from depression thankfully but I feel like I do sometimes.
I thought the book might be more biographical but in fact what it is a pulling together of Spurgeon's many, many references to depression and how to cope with it. The book looks at trying to understand depression, learning how to support those who suffer and learning helps to cope daily. So much of it is fairly conventional but with this very fresh look at Spurgeon's take on it. It is a short book (143 pages) but helpful for any Christian with depression or who is trying to help such a person.
The decision to refer to Spurgeon as Charles was probably not the right decision but the general style is okay once you get used to it (and no typos -well done Christian Focus!). This is a book packed with wisdom that is really worth checking out. Eswine  himself says "the melancholy life thrives when it marathons instead of sprints, or when it sprints often, only to rest often." That on its own is a great seed thought.

Wonderful day of rugby

So Ireland it is. But above everything else what a day of rugby. An incredible 221 points, including 27 (yes, 27) tries! Amazing! 

Amazing Wales 61-20

An amazing second half performance by Wales. Hopefully it is enough. We'll see.

My Brother Jake

We heard this week of the death of Andy Fraser co-writer of my favourite pop track of all time, My Brother Jake. This is a live version from the time (Fraser is on piano). For a more modern (much less satisfying) version try

HMDUK 16 What is the origin of hot-cross buns?

WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF HOT-CROSS BUNS? The custom of making bread marked with the sign of a cross for consumption at festivals is both ancient and widespread. There is no ground for supposing that the custom originated with the early Christians; they merely altered its significance by associating it with the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

HMDUK 15 Why do we have pancakes on Shrove Tuesday?

WHY DO WE HAVE PANCAKES ON SHROVE TUESDAY? This day was formerly one of universal merrymaking and all kinds of amusements, being the last day before the start of the austerities of Lent. In Roman Catholic countries it is still a day of carnival. After having made confession, or shrift (whence 'Shrove') in preparation for the morrow, the faithful are allowed a brief interval of feasting, of which they take full advantage. As eggs and fats are forbidden during Lent, it is customary to use them up on Shrove Tuesday in fritters and pancakes, which thus become particularly associated with this day. The French call it "Mardi Gras," (Fat Tuesday) because of the fat oxen led in procession through the streets.

Midweek Meeting March 18 2015

Rather behind with this but we did meet on Wednesday - about 15 of us all told. We had a decent time of prayer and I spoke from the end of Philippians 2 on Timothy and Epaphroditus as outstanding examples to us. It is quite a challenge. I asked seven searching questions
1. Do you have a genuine concern for the welfare of your fellow Christians?
2. Do you put Jesus Christ's interests above your own?
3. Are you proving yourself by serving with others in the work of the gospel?
4. Are you ready to be a co-worker and fellow soldier to your brothers, caring for any in need?
5. Do you long for other believers and are you distressed if they are anxious at all?
6. Does it gladden your heart to see your faithful fellow believer and do you honour such people?
7. Are you willing to risk your life for the good of your fellow believers?
Our lives are so cosy it is hard to enter the spirit of these questions.

OGWT Faster than the hound

Retro Album of the week 11 - The Tain

The concept album The Tain by the Irish band Horslips came out in 1973 and has given me a great deal of pleasure ever since I first heard it. The band's second studio album it was recorded in Wales and is loosely based on the Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley), one of the most infamous legends of Early Irish literature, dealing with the war between Ulster and Connacht over a prize bull. The songs tell the story from the points of view of Cúchulainn, Queen Maeve of Connacht and Ferdia, among others. Horslips continued their Celtic Rock style of fusing traditional Irish music and rock, using traditional jigs and reels and incorporating them into their songs. For example, Dearg Doom is based on O'Neill's March, while The March of the King of Laois forms part of More Than You Can Chew. Dearg Doom was arguably the most popular track on the album, along with Faster Than The Hound it was performed by the band on BBC's Old Grey Whistle Test.
The album is great fun but is presented in the most serious of tines. I avidly read all the sleeve notes, including the quotation "We Irish should keep these personages in our hearts, for they lived in the places where we ride and go marketing, and sometimes they have met one another on the hills that cast their shadows upon our doors at evening." W.B. Yeats. March 1902.