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.

Prayer - Drawing near

In Hebrews 4:14-16 the writer says Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 10:19-22 is similar. There the writer says Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
In Hebrews 7:19 we have the phrase a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God and 7:25 talks about those who come or draw near to God through him (Christ) and 10:1 those who draw near to worship.
In James 4:8 there is a well known verse that says Come or draw near to God and he will draw come near to you.
Here is a way of speaking about prayer then – coming or drawing near to God.

1. Prayer involves movement or change
The very fact that prayer is spoken of as coming to or drawing near shows that we cannot pray simply by staying as we are. There must be a movement, a change, a drawing near to God. We need to move from where we are. We need to stir ourselves up to action. This movement is clearly a spiritual movement or change nor a physical one.
2. We are responsible to move
In all the references it is clear that we are responsible to move towards God not just him to us. Now James does say Come or draw near to God and he will draw come near to you. That is there to encourage us. Only a little effort is needed and God will do the rest. We must bear our responsibilities, nevertheless.
3. Our prayers must centre on God
Perhaps this is too obvious to need saying but we need to draw near to God. God must be the object of our prayers. We must focus on him. We must seek his face. To set our minds anywhere else is to fail to pray.

Let's draw near to God.

Prayer - Lifting up the soul

In Psalm 25:1 David says In you, LORD my God, I put my trust. He uses a similar phrase in Psalm 84:4 Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you and in Psalm 143:8 Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. More literally in each place he is talking about lifting his soul to God. The same idea is in Lamentations 3:41 Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven, and say: …. Hannah uses a different idiom when she says (1 Samuel 1:15) I was pouring out my soul to the LORD.
To you I lift up my soul and similar phrases say at least three things about prayer.
1. Prayer is a spiritual affair – it is a soul matter
The use of the word soul (an heart elsewhere) suggests that we are talking about an essentially spiritual matter. When we talk of our souls we are talking about us, the essential us, the essential me. Merely saying prayers is a waste of time. That is one reason why written prayers rarely work. If you write it out yourself that is a but different I guess but merely to read prayers is a sure fire way to make it unlikely that you will be lifting up your soul.
2. Prayer is our responsibility – I must do it
The phrase is To you I lift up my soul. There is no suggestion of God lifting up our souls for us. This is not to deny that we need help from on high if we are to pray but there is a responsibility on us to lift our souls to God and not simply wait for him to do it for us.
I remember hearing Eric Alexander speaking about prayer once. He put it this way We're not to wait until we get a tingle in our spine. It's a matter of moral obedience and duty. It is not a glandular condition where one does not pray until he feels like it”.
No, with prayer we simply have to get on to it.
3. Prayer involves effort – it is hard work
That leads on to the last point. It takes effort. I know the soul weighs nothing and so lifting it to God should not be difficult but sometimes it seems my soul is very heavy and lifting even an inch is hard work. Lift it up though. Pour it out. That's what it is to pray. That effort makes all the difference.

Midweek Meeting, September 21 2016

Midweek meeting was a little bit different this week. We are having a week of prayer meetings. We had the first one on Tuesday morning when four of us gathered to pray and this was the second. We have a members meeting on Thursday and we will try to spend time in prayer then. There will also be prayer meetings for three days after that. I think a week of prayer is a good means of reminding us of the imprtance of prayer adn getting us all re-focussed. I spoke very briefly on lifting our souls to God.

Lord's Day September 19 2016

I preached yesterday on Galatians 1:11-2:10 and on the next part of Matthew 10, from verse 16. There was communion in the evening. I preached on the Galatians passage years ago. I'm not sure what I said but I felt like I'd got hold of Paul's point this time - the supernatural or divine origin of the gospel. I'd never really seen Paul as so significant in confirming this fact. With Matthew I drew out eight principles for today. There were lots of encouragements with visits from London Seminary people and a colleague in the ministry and his wife in London for the morning. A Polish lady who promised to come again actually did - always encouraging. We started with our Sunday School on the church. Numbers were down a bit but we'll press on with one more next Sunday before I am away for two Sundays.

10 More Animal Similes

1. As quiet as a mouse
2. As sick as a dog
3. As slippery as an eel
4. As slow as a snail
5. As strong as an ox
6. As stubborn as a mule
7. As high a kite
8. As greedy as a pig
9. As black as a raven
10. As a mad as a (March) hare

10 Animal Similes

1. As hungry as a horse
2. As dead as a dodo
3. As bold as a lion
4. As happy as a lark
5. As sly as a fox
6. As busy as a bee
7. As free as a bird
8. As playful as a kitten
9. As wise as an owl
10. As proud as a peacock

Another bit of Rev Gary Davis


Give me a heart to love
Unto that home, that home above
Give me the mind to go all of the way.
Give me a firm heart to pray,
Helping some soul each day,
Give me a voice to sing my prayer.

Give me a heart to love
Unto that home, that home above
Give me the mind to go all of the way.
Give me a firm heart to pray,
Helping some soul each day,
Give me a voice to sing my prayer.

Give me a help-ing hand
That I may firm, the firmer stand,
Give me the prayers of the Lord every day.
Give me that saving power,
Filling me every, every hour
Give me the strength for all of my way.

Give me a heart to love
Unto that home, that home above
Give me the mind to go all of the way.
Give me a firm heart to pray,
Helping some soul each day,
Give me a voice to sing my prayer.

Give me a might to do,
As long as my strength endure,
Give me a heart to be honest and true.
Give me a song to sing,
Praising my hol- , the holy name,
Give me a life to live for you

Give me a heart to love
Unto that home, that home above
Give me the mind to go all of the way.
Give me a firm heart to pray,
Helping some soul each day,
Give me a voice to sing my prayer.

A brief trip to Yorkshire

I'm on my way back to London after preaching last night in Thornhill for the Pennine Bible Witness. I've been looked after very kindly and was glad of the opportunity to be in this part of the country once again. I decided to preach on faith from Matthew's Gospel, looking at three incidents in Chapters 8, 9 and 15 (the centurion and his servant, the Canaanite woman  and her daughter and the woman with the issue of blood). I had been concerned that that might have been too much but in fact it was about right and seemed to have been appreciated by the fifty or so who gathered, mostly people I don't know, though there were some familiar faces. I notice from the blog that I was last there in December 2007. This time I stayed with the Lavers who I know through Grace Magazine. The marmalade lady was not able to be there but there was a bookstall and I picked up two books on church history. Once again, someone very kindly stepped in and paid for my purchase. What kind folk.

The Hollies 50 years ago

Midweek Meeting September 14 2016


There were twelve of us out last night as we carried on through 2 Timothy 4, looking at the next three verses (3-5). These cautious verses acted as a good balance to last week's more optimistic message. There seemed to be loads of things to pray for and we couldn't get through all of it but we made a start. I probably should have allowed a bit more time for prayer.

Rev Gary Davis in fine form

Fascinating bit of footage featuring the Rev Gary Davis and Pete Seeger on banjo. I wouldn't think the Rev is claiming direct revelation here.

Two more short quotations from the conference

The provision of this mediator of the New Testament, is the greatest effect of the infinite wisdom, love, and grace of God. This is the centre of his eternal counsels. In the womb of this one mercy, all others are contained. Herein will he be glorified to eternity.
John Owen (Hebrews)

There is one peculiarity which distinguishes Paul from the other sacred writers - his habit of giving set dissertations on doctrinal subjects. It is apparent also, from his writings, that he never takes up a doctrinal subject for the mere pleasure of theoretic discussion; but is always compelled to do this, by the exigencies of the church; particularly, by the assaults made on the Christian faith by false teachers.
James Gray (I think this is the correct source)

John Owen Centre Annual Conference 2016 Day 2


Apologies for the delay with this final report. On our second day we had another three speakers. Personally, I felt that as we moved away from the subject of Melchizedek a little something was lost perhaps. Anyway we had three excellent messages, all worth hearing. First, Benedict Bird spoke on Owen on the Priesthood of Christ. Very clear and helpful. There was a lot of discussion but we were perhaps not well verses in the subject enough to take the discussion very far.
Benedict's outline was as follows
1 To what extent was the priesthood of Christ a major focus in his work?
2 Why was Christ's priesthood a major focus?
3 How was his teaching distinctive?
i Appointment in eternity
ii Preincarnation revelation of the priesthood
iii From the incarnation to the cross humiliation and oblation
iv From resurrection to session exaltation and intercession
v From second coming to eternity when he is priest no longer
4 What did Owen have to say about Melchizedek in particular?
Then in the afternoon Andrew Kerr from Northern Ireland spoke on Christ's kingly office.  This subject tends to be given to the Scots and Irish and our speaker proved to be very much at home with his subject. Despite his affable and self effacing style he proved to be more than competent. This was partly a disadvantage as his power point presentation confronted us with quote after quote, chart after chart, etc. One of many documents he drew on was William Roberts' Reformed Presbyterian Catechism of 1853, a very interesting document available online. The real issue here is no doubt how it all works out and this was not something we could really get on to.
As is the tradition, the conference finished with a Baptist tasked with seeking to draw out some practical uses. Jeremy Walker reminded us that our study
1. Should bring before us the claims of Christ's person
2. Show us what is the character of his ambassadors
3. Encourage us to hear the call of his heralds
4. And know the comfort of his offices

Pascal Quote

Garry Williams gave us this quotation from Blaise Pascal on original sin
It is, however, an astonishing thing that the mystery furthest removed from our knowledge, namely, that of the transmission of sin, should be a fact without which we can have no knowledge of ourselves. For it is beyond doubt that there is nothing which more shocks our reason than to say that the sin of the first man has rendered guilty those, who, being so removed from this source, seem incapable of participation in it. This transmission does not only seem to us impossible, it seems also very unjust. For what is more contrary to the rules of our miserable justice than to damn eternally an infant incapable of will, for a sin wherein he seems to have so little a share, that it was committed six thousand years before he was in existence? Certainly nothing offends us more rudely than this doctrine; and yet, without this mystery, the most incomprehensible of all, we are incomprehensible to ourselves. The knot of our condition takes its twists and turns in this abyss, so that man is more inconceivable without this mystery than this mystery is inconceivable to man.

Owen Quote

Flavien began with this quotation from John Owen yesterday
In Order unto the End mentioned, the Apostle in the first place declares, that Antecedently unto the giving of the Law, and the Institution of the Levitical Priesthood thereby, God had, without any Respect thereunto, given a Typical praefiguration of this Priesthood of Christ, in one who was on all Accounts Superiour unto the Levitical Priests, when they were afterwards introduced. This Sacred Truth which had been hid for so many Ages in the Church, and which undeniably manifests the certain future Introduction of another and a better Priesthood, is here brought to light, and improved by the Apostle. As Life and Immortality, so all Spiritual Truth, was brought to light by the Gospel, [2 Tim. 1. 10] Truth was stored up in the Prophecies, Promises, and Institutions of the Old Testament; but so stored up, as it was in a great measure hidden also; but was brought forth to light, and made manifest in the Gospel. For whereas it is said, that the great Mystery of the manifold Wisdom of God, was hidden in him from the beginning of the World, [Ephes. 3. 9, 10]. The meaning is not, that it was so hid in the Will and purpose of God, as that he had made no intimation of it; for he had done so variously from the Foundation of the World, or the giving of the first Promise: But he had so laid it up, and stored it in his Sacred Revelation, as it was much hid from the Understanding of the best of Men in all Ages, untill it was Display∣ed and brought forth to light by the Gospel, [Psal. 49. 4. 78. 2] And all that Glorious Evidence of the Grace of God which now appears unto us in the Writings of the Old Testament, is from a Reflection of light upon them from the New Testament, or the Revelation of God by Jesus Christ. And therefore the whole Church of the Jews, although they were in the entire possession of those Writings of the Old Testament for so many Ages, never understood so much of the Mystery of the Will and Grace of God declared in them, as every ordinary Believer under the Gospel is enabled to do. And if We have the Privilege and Advantage of those Oracles of God which were committed to them, incomparably above what They attained unto, certainly greater Measures of Holiness, and greater Fruitfulness in Obedience, are expected from us than from them.
Hebrews Volume 5