As it is half term this week I thought I would take a break from Philippians and look at 2 Corinthians 5:16, a verse that has been on my mind a lot recently. We worked through what it is to regard Christ in a worldly and in a spiritual way and then with regard to others. I hope it was helpful. We had a good time of prayer to follow and most people prayed.
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.
Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter is one of those books you hear about from time to time. I'd never read it but I eventually got round to it the other week. The lead in is a little long winded but Hawthorne wants to root you in his present before taking you back to yesteryear and a very different New England. I had always assumed that scarlet letter referred to a letter written in red ink, which is not the case. It is a little anti-puritan but I enjoyed the book as it is well written, the story well told and very human and with a little whiff of the mysterious, which is both true to life and makes for interesting reading. I'm glad to have it read (no pun there).
I went down to The Globe this afternoon to see As you like it. As ever, it was very well done. AYLI is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, probably because I first studied it in school. A number of words I first encountered in that context I believe. The seven ages of man and the varying speeds of time speeches are rightly famous and it was good to have them in context again plus "laid on with a trowel", "sweet are the uses of adversity", "forever and a day", etc. The tap dancing was okay for a play that is part way a musical (al that side being done very well) but I don't see the point of introducing modern items (an OS map, sunglasses, a thermos flask, a bicycle, etc) when such efforts have been made to get back to Shakespeare's own times. The parts are shared out fairly equally and no-one shone. Perhaps they could have got more humour out of it. I fear some material was cut.
I've recently read Mike Reeves two Paternoster books The good God and Christ our life. I read the first (which is subtitled, on Father, Son and Spirit) on my kindle and the second in traditional format. Both books are written in a racy but highly theological style that makes good use of past masters. The books are illustrated throughout and certain sections are placed in separate panels, which all adds to the delight of the experience. These books have now been published in America by IVP as Delighting in the Trinity and Rejoicing in Christ. Not everyone copes so well with this fresh approach but it is good to know that a fresh voice is articulating ancient truth in the modern vernacular.
Having come to the end of the series on 1 Corinthians I thought I'd preach a one off on Psalm 23 in the morning. It is always a good place to come back to. One reason I was glad I had was that it is the anniversary of the death of one of our members. I had forgotten but here widower reminded me afterwards. In the evening I carried on in the Sermon on the Mount, looking at the dangers of wealth. It 's such a challenging subject. The day went off quite well but was marked by several slip ups o my part. In the morning I almost forgot the collection for some reason but remembered before the sermon. By the evening I had managed to send the kindle I use to Cardiff and so had to return home and print it off on paper. We also had our monthly prayer meeting for the children's work before the evening meeting.
I picked up a copy of Roger Carswell's new book, Evangelistic Preaching at the conference (thanks John). It is a beautifully produced book - hardback in a lovely blue colour with a few graphics and clear print. The print could have been slightly bigger perhaps but they wanted it short which it is - only just over 70 pages. In five chapters Carswell the evangelist simply urges and encourages more evangelistic preaching inside our buildings and out with lots of helpful advice and quotations on the way (from Wiersbe, Stott and others). After speaking of the need he looks at preaching Christ, manifesting love, being creative, connecting and expecting results. Good stuff. I was slightly surprised but pleased to find this quotation from John Stott on pages 28 and 29.
I constantly find myself wishing that we twentieth century preachers could learn to weep again. But either our tear-springs have dried up, or our tear-ducts have become blocked. Everything seems to conspire together to make it impossible for us to cry over lost sinners who throng the broad road which leads to destruction. Some preachers are so preoccupied with the joyful celebration of salvation that they never think to weep over those who are rejecting it. Others are being deceived by the devil's lie of universalism. Everybody will be saved in the end, they say, and nobody will be lost. Their eyes are dry because they have closed them to the reality of eternal death and outer darkness of which both Jesus and His Apostles spoke. Yet others are faithful in warning sinners of hell, but do so with a glib and even a sick pleasure, which are almost more terrible than the blindness of those who ignore or deny its reality.
Slogging along in the paths of righteousness by Dale Ralph Davis is Davis's apparently unplanned follow up to The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life. The first book covers Psalms 1-12 and the second Psalms 13-24. Both books give around 10-12 pages to each Psalm, beginning with Davis's own careful translation and characterised by his usual mix of gentle scholarship, playful language, brilliant illustrations, judicious quotations and helpful applications. I am far from being alone in recognising what a great gift Dr Davis is to God's people. Another 10 books like this would be most welcome. The only problem I can see is with titles and special effects for the covers (for the first we had slightly raised mud splashes which I did try to rub off and this second has colour in a black and white photo). How about Trudging the Lord's ways through the sludge of reality and using a black and white colour split effect (as below)?
|Mayall as Hitler|
2. Adolf Hitler
3. Rik Mayall
4. Steve Jobs
5. Joseph Mohr
7. King George VI
8. Roger Miller (musician)
9. Phil Chevron (The Pogues)
10. Billy Powell (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
(Sobering as ever)
Graceland is a 1986 album by Paul Simon. I bought my original copy on cassette tape! I have always liked Simon and Garfunkel a bit and this seventh studio album of Simon's was well publicised. I have paid it quite a bit of attention over the years and downloaded a 25th anniversary edition not long ago. Apparently Simon's life and career had not been going well until he brought out this album with its many South African township style tracks. Other tracks lean on Zydeco and Cajun music, also very fresh at the time. There is a track with Los Lobos too. Simon faced controversy for seemingly breaking the cultural boycott imposed by the rest of the world against the apartheid regime in South Africa. He was also accused of exploitation. It is Simon's most successful studio album and his highest-charting effort in over a decade. A big seller, it was given awards. I have mixed feelings about Paul Simon's lyrics. He certainly has an ability to find an attractive lyric that will stick in your head.
I have been a little constrained in my reporting the GBA as I forgot to take the computer lead with me. I am back home now and can report that our final morning was very good. Hugh Collier spoke on Adoniram Judson, a great hero, especially of we Baptists. He judged it very well for what to include and what to leave out. It was very good to hear the story again and areal challenge. Carl Muller preached from Romans 8:28 for the finale session and sent us home on the right note.
Having missed last year's assembly I particularly appreciated being there this year. It is good to be with these people. We share so much in common and there is great sympathy one for the other. May such fellowship long continue.
We have had an excellent day here in Swanwick. In the morning we were in the hands of Dr John Hall who passionately called on us to stick with our Baptist principles. He reminded us of the elegance and simplicity of the Baptist position, which has never been seriously argued against. Rather, taking other positions merely leads to other expedients not found in Scripture. There was plenty of time for discussion and that proved quite useful.
In the afternoon we had our business session. We were told that a record 148 people have been at the conference (including six day visitors) from 72 churches. Some 62 churches have registered for assembly, some 39 of them represented by a total of 56 messengers. We discussed a statement of Christian ethical standards that may be adopted. We agreed to meet next year May 24-26 here in Swanwick.
Later in the day we had one of the best sessions of assembly, the news time. Jeyakanth spoke about Sri Lanka, Trevor Routley about Argentina and Will Niven about Albania, all of whom had encouraging things to say though not without qualification (Buddhist thuggery and charismania). We then had six reports from different men in Britain, again mostly encouraging though not without a downside. The areas covered were Basildon, Highbury, Leyton, Halifax, Gloucester and Hyde Heath.
Nick Needham preached in the evening session. Another fine exposition of the cross, this time in terms of sacrifice. Such a blessing to hear. Beforehand he spoke of Reformed Baptist work in Scotland, where there are several small churches (Inverness, Perth, Dundee, Penicuik and two in Glasgow as well as some BU churches).
REcordings of the messages should already be up on the GBA website here.
It is great to be at the GBA once again in Swanwick. The turn out is a bumper 140. Our chairman Noel Ramsey from Wensleydale kicked us off with a look through that chapter beloved of Baptists Acts 16, focusing on Lydia and the Jailer. Later we had a report on the work among Reformed Baptists in Canada from a sometimes quite impassioned (Burlington based) Carl Muller. After our evening meal Nick Needham preached a very helpful sermon on redemption.
We had the tenth and last Bitesize Theology session for now on redemption to begin the day. It has been a good series with decent if erratic turn out. I then preached to a fairly full congregation on the rest of 1 Corinthians 16 (from verse 5). I focused on the subject of planning ahead in a godly way. In the evening we had communion at 6 pm and then I preached on fasting from Matthew 6. Fasting is not a subject we often look at so it was good to be back on it. Perhaps I have over-reacted against the way the subject has been hi-jacked by more extreme elements and downplayed fasting. This is always a possibility but when you keep coming back to Scripture you at least lessen that danger.
Like London buses so with biographies of Christian women it sees. This in is quite a contrast to that of Mrs Lloyd-Jones. Iain Murray commends the larger biographies by Houghton and Elliot but this little book is very useful in its ability not only to give the basic story but to attempt some perceptive theological analysis as well. A danger for those who are Reformed in their theology is to dismiss those who they do not know as being overtly on the same page theologically. In the case of Amy Carmichael, Murray argues, that would be a mistake, as despite some obvious issues here is a woman who with great tenacity and commitment lived for God's glory and did a massive amount of good in her time. Do get hold of this very challenging little book and learn the story of one of God's servants. One of Murray's hopes is to produce an interest in her poetry and other works. It will be interesting to know if that happens.