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.

Some Christmas Reading 2017


One of the joy of Christmas is getting down my collection of Christmas Books, which I try to add to year by year. Last year I bought a detective novel Murder at the Old Vicarage a Christma Mystery by Jill McGown, which I started but only got a few pages in. This year I made a fresh assault and finished it. I think that when I bought it I assumed that it was one of those old books like The Santa Klaus Murder or Mystery in White (1938 and 1938 respectivey). It was actually published in1988 (as Redemption) but works more or less within the conventions of the traditonal genre. It was easy to read and kept me guessing to the end and that is all you can really ask of such a novel. There was bags of snow and the action takes place over the Christmas period but it is not very Christmassy.
In the bookshop a few weeks ago I saw two books on carols that looked interesting. I went for Carols from Kings by Alexandra Coghlan over Andrew Gant's broader work, probably becasue it was a hardback. I am not a particular fan of the King's service, owever, and so a lot of the content was rather list on me, although I enjoyed learning about the history of carols and liked her list of Christmas music worth hearing (see below).

Page 189
OLD CAROLS, NEW LIVES
Carols continue to evolve. even today. thanks to the invention and creativity of pop and Jazz artists. But which are the covers worth exploring?
• Jeff Buckley's stripped-back recording of the 'Corpus Christi Carol' is hauntingly lovely and deeply persistent
• Once in Royal is transformed into a lilting country song in the hands of Mary Chapin Carpenter.
• No choir could bring the same poised solemnity to 'We Three Kings' that Ella Fitzgerald somehow achieves.
• Who knew Peter Warlock's 'Bethlehem Down' was hiding a slinky jazz number under its robes? The David Rees-Williams Trio take this beautiful carol to a late-night piano bar, with wonderful results.
• Sufjan Stevens makes a laid-back Indie ballad out of Germany's beautiful Christmas hymn 'Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming'.
• Bert Jausch retains all the simplicity of 'In the Bleak Midwinter' adding his own spontaneity to create a gorgeous pop song.
• 'Little Drummer Boy' gets some unexpected urban edge from Lauryn Hill.

Lord's Day, December 17 2017


Not a bad day yesterday, though no newcomers along and some others missing too. It is remarkable that we could get four locals to come to our Christmas party the day before but no-one to come to the services on the Lord's Day. A lady from Botswana returned after being kept away by the snow the week before. I preached from Luke 2 - on verse 7 in the morning (Jesus in the manger) and verse 14 in the evening (the words of the angels). These are verses we have visited before but it was good to go back to them again. The comingof Christ is a stunning fact.

Midweek Meeting Wednesday December 13 2017


We were just eight on Wednesday as we looked at another Christmas object - this time the manger in which Jesus was laid, which was more likely to have been of stone than wood, it seems. Certainly the strips of cloth wound round him and the laying down spekas of the grave rather than the cross. It was good to look at these matters once again adn to pray together.

The Life and Death of Sherlock Holmes


I guess I would have first encountered Sherlock Holmes on TV many years ago and have watched all of the most recent series starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Many years ago I bought the complete sets of novels and short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and read them with much enjoyment. I came across the book The life and death of Sherlock Holmes in a bookshop a few weeks ago and I later downloaded it in kindle form and read it. It is basically everything you ever wanted to know about the subject. Instead of stopping with the death of Conan Doyle the Swedish writer carries on describing what the surviving family did and didn't do and tracing the parallel life of the character in parodies, films, plays and TV presentations, etc. In the end it is too much but the author writes well and keeps you interested for most of the well over 500 pages! It is an exhaustive and through piece of work that name drops all the way written by a genuine enthusiast and probably would not be appreciated by everyone. I would love to see something similar done with P G Wodehouse's Jeeves although I notice that Bostrom thinks Jeeves is a derivative of Holmes. Strangely it didn't create a desire in me to read the original stories or the book of parodies I also have.

Lord's Day December 10 2017

When I looked out of the window on Sunday, being child at heart, I was pleased to see the snow. of course, the downside was a poor attendance with some away anyway, some unable to make it through the snow and potential visitors clearly discouraged from leaving home. We struggled up to a decent number in the morning but in the evening we were only eight! We did have tea beforehand (only six of us for that). The singing was okay but I chose the less well known songs this week and so with so few that was not easy. I also thought the sermons (on Matthew 1:18 and 1 John 3:5) lacked something. At least the evening one had the merit of being short.
I felt rather down about it the next day and began to plot some sort of escape but rescue came in the unlikely form of the song Santa never brings me a banjo a complaint from a child about a Christmas present that never arrives. I began by sympathising and wallowing in my own unhappiness but soon saw how childish it is. Far better the sentiments of another sing I listened to yesterday that includes the line "Santa knows what I want but Jesus knows what I need".

Midweek Meeting Wednesday December 6 2017


For our midweek meetings up to Christmas I have decided to look at the incarnation in light of s series of three objects. On Wednesday we considered an ancient writing tablet with the words written on it, his name is John. We considered Zechariah and the fact he wrote these words in self-denial and in faith and in a sense prophesying what lay ahead. We were a decent number and we prayed well though I left it a bit late to start. Someone di ask me about Numbers 8:25 where it would seem priests retired at 50 raising the question of why Zechraih was still serving as a priest. It would seem that this refers ti the heavy lifting work of transporting the tabernacle, which ceased after a certain point anyway.

Westminster Conference 2017 Day Two


We have had another good day here in Oxford Street. The first two sessions were taken up with the connected subjects of Jacob Arminius and the Synod of Dort. Phil Arthur gaveus the background to Arminius himself and his writings and then Benedict Bird described the Synod of Dort which began nine years after Arminius's death in November 1618 (it went on until the folliwng year). It was good to have the details set out. We had good discussions especially as there were Arminians present. We also touched on the halfway house of hypothetical atonement or Amyraldianism.
Traditonally, the closing paper is a biography with no discussion. This is the third message I've heard on William Williams Pantycelyn this year and perhaps th ebest - may be because it was given by a minister (Mark Thomas from Wrexham).

LORD, I long to be in thy Presence, 
Tis my Joy and whole Delight;
Sweeter than delicious Honey,
Fairer than the Morning Light;

All the Assaults of Sin and Satan,
I could stedfastly withstand,
And would stem all Woes and Perils,
Having Thee at my right Hand.

I can suffer every Affliction,
And encounter every Foe,
And the Depths of flowing Jordan
Venture also fearless thro',

Only let thy gracious Presence
Then my feeble Soul assist, 
Tis thy Strength eternal only,
That can conquer and resist.

Death and Hell, and all Destruction,
Shake and tremble at thy Might;
And thy Presence hush to Silence
All the roaring Wolves of Night.

Lord Jehovah! Lord Almighty!
Is thy gracious holy Name,
O let me, unworthy Sinner,
Feel the Power of the same.

Good days. Next year we meet again, God willing December 4 and 5

Westminster Conference 2017 Day One

About 120 of us gathered once again at the Regent Hall in Oxford Street for the Westminster Conference. Stephen Clark kicked us off with a fairly comprehensive and persuasive exposition of Word and Spirit touching on regeneration, assurance, guidance an other matters seeking to demonstrate the independence of the Spirit with regard to God's Word. With supporting quotations from Edwards, Murray et al I was more convinced than ever that this is a biblical approach. Some found the long paper hard work and certainly anyone unfamiliar with the arguments might have struggled. Robert Striven chaired and we had a worthwhile discussion on assurance.
Dovetailing neatly with the first session we had a paper in the afternoon from Guy Davies on the felt presence of God, majoring on Thomas Goodwin but including references to Owen. I chaired. I did fear there wold be nothing more to discuss after the morning session but we were able to discuss quite profitably God's felt presence and whether it should be sought. There is some divergence among us but a general unity.
The final paper was slightly different as we went back to Calvin and Reformed liturgy with Andy Young. This was again a useful paper and a good discussion under the strict chairmanship of Jeremy Walker. Inevitably one or two exclusive psalm singers felt obliged to make their points but otherwise we seemed to be able to help one another at the end of what had been a very good day.
Here's a quote from Thomas Goodwin I enjoyed
conscience itself, which is ordained, as the urine of the body, to shew the estate of the whole, and therefore is accordingly called good or evil as the man’s state is, this is apt in such distempers to change and turn colour, and look to a man’s own view as foul as the state of a very hypocrite.” (Goodwin Works III, p. 254.)
Looking forward to dat two.

Lunch time lecture at the Library on God's greatness,etc

We had our last lunch time lecture of the year yesterday and there was a good turn out. Ian Densham spoke on the Greatness of God, focusing on his infinity and eternity. It seems that we ran this lecture a little while ago but not to worry it was good to hear again. We also had a library committee later. In between I had time to get two new tyres for the car. They don't come cheaply.

Lord's Day December 4 2017

It was good to be back in Childs Hill again on the Lord's Day. It being the first Sunday of the month we began with communion. A good number were there. I decided to preach on some texts from 1 Peter 4 and 5. In the morning I preached from Chapter 4 on suffering. I am very much aware fo the troubles several are going through at the moment and that we as a church are facing to some extent and so  I outlined seven things we need to do when we suffer. The evening message was about being humble, not anxious and being alert adn sober minded, standing firm as we resist the devil.
There were decent congregations morning and evening, thiugh with some missing as ever. There wa s new Romanian lady in the morning who I hoep we will see again adn then strangely both in the morning and evening there was someone form Botswana present. One, a woman, lives in the area and the other, a man, is visiting the area. I don't think they know each other. Not sire what to make of providences like that. At the very least it should prompt me to pray for that country.
(PS the top pic is a still from Solzhenitsyn's A day in the life of Ivan D wheere Alyosha reads that passage).

Seasonal traditions that are perhaps not so old


It's a long Christmas tradition we are often told but some Christmas traditions are perhaps not as old as you think.
1. Seeing the John Lewis Christmas ad – only since 2007
2. Hearing on the radio Merry Christmas Everybody and I wish it could be Christmas every day – only since 1973
3. Watching league football on Boxing Day – only since 1960 (1971 in Scotland)
4. Watching the Queen's speech on TV – only since 1952
5. Hearing the little drummer boy carol – only since 1941
6. Hearing Rudolph the red nosed reindeer – only since 1939
7. Tuning into Carols with nine lessons from Kings – only since 1928 (the thing itself only goes back to 1918)
8. Pulling Christmas crackers – only since 1847
9. Sending Christmas cards – only since 1843
10. Putting up a Christmas tree in England – only since 1840

Book and Candle

The season is here and so we  have our traditional Advent Candle up and running and our book this year is Paul David Tripp's Come let us adore him

Kate Rusby Angels and Men


One might have thought that another seasonal album of equal quality to the others impossible but Kate Rusby has done it. Her fourth such album, Angels and Men, has just come out and I see no discernible diminution in quality. This is a worthy addition to go alongside Sweet Bells (2008) While Mortals Sleep (2011) and Now the Frost is over (2015). The formula (folk band with some addition of brass or electric instruments and very occassional banjo playing songs ancient and modern, sacred and secular, serious and jocular) is the same and works well once again.
One might have thought Deck the Halls or See Amid the Winter's Snow had been covered before but no, here they are for the first time. I think we have had Sweet Chiming Bells but it is here with an alternative tune. Hark hark hark (also done before) and Rolling Downward are traditionals more off the beaten track. Let it snow is another case of taking an MoR song (compare Kris Kringle and Winter Wonderland) and folkifying it.
The traditiuonal Paradise stand out a little here but without spoiling the ambience.
The other source of material is contemporary folk and so we have Richard Thomson's We'll sing Hallelujah, David Myles' Santa never brings me a banjo and The Ivy and the Holly by Chris Sugden, which I think is very funny.
The final two tracks on the album are Let the Bells Ring and Big Brave Bill Saves Christmas fine songs penned by the lass herself.

Airplane Movies


On my journey to and from Nigeria I took opportunity to watch some movies. I watched

The Wizard of Lies
The Circle
Brigsby Bear
Norman: The moderate rise and tragic fall of a New York fixer

I did try one other but abandoned it. These I enjoyed, although the first (The Wizard of Lies starring Robert de Niro) cannot be recommended because of the bad language, etc, throughout. It is a chronicle of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, which defrauded his clients of billions of dollars and sent the stock exchange crashing. It is interesting as Madoff appears not to have thought of himself as a bad character despite hiss crimes and their devastating effects.
The Circle, with Emma Watson and Tom Hanks, is an interesting take on the whole Internet world we find ourselves in. A silicon valley company proves to have cultic tendencies and a lot to hide. The film rather ducks out of the case it has built at the end. Hard to get sponsors otherwise I guess.
Brigsby Bear (Mark Hamill) begins rather weirdly but then gets into more recognisable patterns a sit progresses. Having thought about it for a while now I would guess it is a sort of parable in which the people who kidnapped the Mark Hamill character as a baby but gave him an enjoyable but limited life where he loved watching Brigsby Bear's adventures stands for the old studio system in Hollywood. The characters return to his true parents and the making of his own movie helped by friends is perhaps a plea for independent film makers.
Norman (Richard Gere) is a typically Jewish story based in New York among Jews. The Norman character is interesting enough and the plot is very neat. Lovely film.

The Reformation Andrew Atherstone



It was a real joy to get a last bite for the year at the subject of the Reformation in Nigeria recently. Earlier this year I bought a copy of AndrewAtherstone's The Reformation Faith and Flames. I thought it would make a nice coffee table book and to be fair it has sat on our coffee table in the front room only being glanced at a few times to scan the wonderful pictures Lion have provided it with. So, with time running out, I took it to Nigeria and thankfully was able to finish it before returning.
In the course of 10 Chapters it covers the basics of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation to the end of Elizabeth I's reign with an excusable emphasis on Britain and what happened in England and Scotland. I had forgotten that my first exposure to the Reformation was in school, especially doing A level history.
This is a fine introduction for those who are unfamiliar. All the basic names, facts and quotations are here from a historian abreast of his subject. I was surprised that Catherine Parr got no mention (the other five are all named).
I also bought a paperback, Atherstone's Reformation A World in Turmoil at some point also by Lion but with no pictures. The text of both books appears to be the same but I cannot see any reference to the fact in either book.

 

Urban Fox



My son snapped this cheeky creature in our garden a little earlier today.

Nigeria Report

With Ani Ekpo

Conference

Conference Speakers

Old friend Engineer Emediong Samuel, former student at London Seminary



On Monday November 20 last I was up very early to head to Heathrow and fly via Frankfurt to Port Harcourt in Nigeria. It took me the best part of the day to get there adn night had fallen when I arrived. The airport arrivals building is not there at the moment and so a makeshift tent is in use. The waft of warm air, the sound of the crickets, the rain and the air of confusion over prcdures all served to remind me of my previous trip 13 years before.
I was collected by my friend Pastor Aniekan Ekpo abkly assisted by a man I remember from before called "Japan" (he's good with motors). This time I was put in a hotel. Fairly basic but with en suite wet room and seatless toilet, a fan and an AC unit. electicity is as intermittent as ever but the hotel and the church have their own generators and the former would cut in fairly soon after any loss of power.
Apart from the introduction of motorised rickshaws in place of motobikes and the obvious upgrades in 'phone technology I could see little difference in the area. Rumuodara is as dirt poor as ever. The sight of a white man is still a novelty (I saw no other in the period of my seven day stay).
The church on the other hand now has its roof completed and a wooden ceiling so that on the one day it rained heavily the noise was very limited. There is also a day school and a seminary, which had not really arrived when I was here last. About 87 children come to the school. I enjoyed their little drumming band on my first morning, when I addressed the assembled children. Whenever asked to give an off the cuff address to children I always turn tothe story of Naaman, which is very child friendy and instructive.
After this, Pastor Ani, a local Baptist pastor and myself headed for a meeting of Acmin (Akwa-Cross Ministerial Network, see here) a ministers fellowship for ministers from Rivers State where we are and the neighbouring state. It was held in Rehoboth Specialist Hospital kindly made available by surgeon Professor Aniekan Ekere (see here). The meeting was in full swing when I arrived. Fairly Pentecostal in its ethos, it was  mixed affair. Ani had asked me to speak and they listened politely. I spoke on What makes a Christian leader, stressing training and commitment.
The main reason for my coming to Nigeria was to give three addressesat a conference on the Reformation organised at the church (The Reformed Baptist Tabernacle). The conference was a two adn half day 15 session job and I spoke three times on various Reformation subjects. It is not easy to make oneself understood but I did my best. Numbers varied greatly over the sessions but we were just about into triple figures by the end. The other speakers varied in quality but some were very good. On the Friday it was native wear. I was kindly provided with a colourful shirt. The weather was good which may have helped attendance.
On the Saturday it was matriculation and graduation. There were also orindations. This seemd a rather unbaptist way of doing things but it is to do with Nigerian laws and the difficulty of establishing legitimacy. This was  long and unusual day for me. Leaving students were given copies of Ryle on the Gospels courtesy of Banner of Truth.
On the Sunday I preached in the morning and spoke to the Sunday School children and the young people. That was again a privilege.
Throughout the time at the church photographs, formal and informal were being taken adn I must appeared in at least five hundred of these.
Although hard work it was good to be away from the computer for a while and to get some reading done. I thoroughly enjoyed the time there and learned a lot. The cultural differences are huge in some ways but the way Aniekan Ekpo and men round him are getting on with the work is most encouraging. I enjoyed meeting the men from the church and also Sammy, Jerry and Bulo, three young New Calvinists from Abuja, Lagos and Jos respectively.
My flight home was  a night time one. It was good to be back.


Midweek Meeting Wednesday November 29 2017

We were only 10 last night but from soemthing like is different nations all told. It was good just tonshare soemthing of the recent trip to Nigeria. We also ahd a very good time of prayer with most taking parr, including one person we haven't heard pray before - always a treat. Although this is a difficult time for the church with money shortages and many struggling in one way or another (mostly illnesses) it was a very encouraging time.

Lord's Day November 26 2017


Last Sunday was a bit different, of course, as I was in Nigeria - more on the whole trip at some other point. Suffice to say it was a joy and privilege to be once more at the Reformed Baptist Tabernacle in Rumuodara, Port Harcourt, at the invitation of Aniekan Ekpo. We were still celebrating the reformation as we had done through the week and there was also a celebration to mark a recent wedding and a college promotion that followed on. I preached from Galatians 3:1-14 on justification by faith and said something about the Reformation briefly. Several others took art in that.
In the afternoon I spoke briefly t the Sunday School children and a good session with the young people in the church parlour asking and  answering questions/
All three girls in the picture are called Peace and were in the youth meeting. They form a three peace suit or suite I guess.

Death of Bobi Jones in Aberystwyth

While I was away my father-in law's cousin died. You may know the name of Bobi Jones only from the Welsh hymns in Christian Hymns that he translated but there was a lot more to him. This obituary in The Independent is by Meic Stephens.
By far the most prolific writer of the Welsh language in his lifetime, Robert Maynard Jones was born into a working-class, English-speaking home in Cardiff in 1929.
His grandfather, a Marxist, instilled in him an egalitarian spirit which coloured all he wrote and did in later life – novels, short stories, poems, literary criticism which made no apology for being intellectually challenging. His aim was never to produce popular texts but to exercise both the reader and the language.
His non-creative work was published under the name R M Jones. His poems painted pictures of time he spent in Ghana, Quebec and Mexico City, where he fell ill.
Such was the scale of his output that Jones’s peers joked he had more books to his name than he had readers – undeterred, he kept producing and consolidating his position as a stalwart of Welsh literature. 
At Cathays grammar school he learned Welsh as a second language, and was inspired to study it at degree level at the University of Wales, Cardiff.* 
After teaching at Llanidloes in Montgomeryshire and Llangefni in Anglesey, he lectured at Trinity College, Carmarthen, and at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, joining the staff of the Welsh Department in 1966. He was appointed Professor of Welsh Language and Literature at Aberystwyth in 1980 – in 1969 he had taught Prince Charles Welsh there. He retired in 1989. 
His marriage in 1952 to Anne Elizabeth (Beti) James, a native Welsh speaker from Pembrokeshire, proved crucial in his development as a poet. She inspired him towards Welsh literature, which was to remain – along with his Calvinist faith – the driving force of his career. At this time, too, he joined Plaid Cymru. The couple had two children, Rhodri and Lowri.
He made the case for what he saw as the complementary notions religion and nation in Crist a Chenedlaetholdeb (“Christ and Nationalism”), published in 1994.

In 1976 in, perhaps, a belated response to complaints that he was writing too much, he announced that he would publish no more verse for 10 years. 

He found it difficult to keep his word and, as he once remarked to me with a wink, it did not mean he had to stop writing altogether. 
He was no less prodigious in the writing of prose. His three novels are Nid yw Dwr yn Plygu (“Water does not bend”, 1958), Bod yn Wraig (“To be a woman”,1960) and Epistol Serch a Selsig (“An epistle of love and sausages”, 1997). Making no concession to “the common reader”, these books are difficult even for those familiar with literary theory and are not meant to be popular – a category he despised and for the promoting of which he often took the Welsh Books Council to task. 
In his view, the Welsh reader needed to be “fully stretched”, for the integrity and vitality of the language depended on it. He regarded the minimalists among his critics, especially those poets who were content to bring out a slim volume and then fall silent, as exemplars of the Welsh inferiority complex, which he was fond of examining at every opportunity. His readers were taxed to the utmost by his works of literary theory.
As a student he was particularly anxious to learn why the language and literature of Wales play such a crucial part in the maintenance of Welsh nationhood.
Having mastered Welsh as a second language and made it the language of his home and writing, R M Jones turned to the teaching of Welsh to adults, a field in which he played a pioneering and inspirational role for many years, particularly as the prime mover of Cymdeithas y Dysgwyr (CYD, or “The Learners’ Society”), which since 1984 has been active in organising classes in all parts of Wales. 
What he called for was a mass movement similar to the Ulpan scheme which had restored Hebrew in Israel, seeing it as the only hope for the survival of Welsh, and he worked tirelessly in pursuit of this ideal. He was fond of telling the story of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda and his wife Devora who, after landing in Jaffa in 1881, resolved to speak only Hebrew with each other and swore to become the parents of the first child in modern times to have that language as its mother tongue. 
Although he produced a number of works in English, it became to him a foreign language.
Jones’s last years were marred by severe physical back pain which prevented him from sitting down, so that his reading and writing had to be done in the upright position or lying prone on his stomach. Even so, he did not let it interrupt his 12-hour days. His collected poems were published as Canu Arnaf (“Singing me”) in two volumes in 1994 and 1995, and yet another as Ol Traed (“Footprint”) in 2003. It was thus he served the language and literature of his country, and the God he revered above all else. 
In one poem, he wrote: “Death, you’re afraid of me, because I’m young”.

Bobi (Robert Maynard) Jones, writer of the Welsh language, born 20 May 1929, died 22 November 2017
* He himself spoke of more or les being pushed into carrying on with Welsh in Secondary School

The Book That ...

My esteemed father-in law recently sent me and many others a questionnaire about books. You can see my contribution alongside those of Mack Tomlinson and Garry Williams (sorry they have failed to give Garry his two Rs) on the Banner of Truth Website here. Check out the other two articles too with more to come I hope.

Lord's Day November 19 2017

Yesterday was strange in some ways as I was very conscious that I would be leaving for Nigeria first thing the next day and so I was tempted to let my mind stray there. Perhaps first thng Monday is not the bext time to be heading away. Anyway, although attendance was not great for various reasons (only eight of us sat down to communion before the evening meeting) it was a  blessing to preach the Word once again. I preached n Dorcas from the end off Acts 9 in the morning. A bit longer than usual. I was more my usual length in the evening I think (about half an hour). I decided to preach fro 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10 as I am conscious of many needs in the congregation at present. For some reason the sining did not go so well today (a wrong tune involving a restart, one or two unfamiliar tunes, a bit of a failure by me leading acapella at the communion table, etc). The thing is I don't think everyone is convinced about our approach - singing a huge variety of (mostly older) hymns from the new Christian Hymns and so when we struggle a bit they tend to think it's the approach that's wrong. We had two Japanese ladies there in the morning (an older lady visiting and a younger lady with her daughter from the area). It was good to meet them.

10 More Rugbyasongs

1. Let there be scrums
2. Benevolent conversion
3. Good sixnations
4. Yer Blues
5. The Lions sleep tonight
6. Rucking in the deep
7. Wallaby
8. All Black Star
9. Scarlets jibons
10. Maul by myself

10 Rugbyasongs

1. Try again
2. Here comes the scrum
3. Eleanor Rugby
4. Maul right now
5. Disco ruck 
6. Prop Muzik
7. Girl in the front row
8. I heard it on the gain line
9. Ospreys hymn
10. Scrum together

Midweek Meeting November 15 2017


I am in Nigeria next week speaking at a conference and so I tried out half of one of the papers I am to give on those gathered last night. The subject I have been given is How the Reformation affected England then, a lesson for Nigerian churches today not an easy subject to tackle. What I have done is to select a number of works (Tyndale's Bible, Cranmers BCP, Foxe's Martyrs, the Westminster Standards, Bunyan's PP) and describe them leading to five recommendations for Nigerian churches today. We just focussed on focussing on the Bible an worshipping reverendly last night. We had a good prayer time too. Several in our congregation are unwell at present with various underlying ailments.

Semper Paenitere


I just put this on one of my blogs here.
Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, Sola Deo Gloria. These are the great Reformation watchwords. Scripture alone, grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, the glory of God alone. One can only have so many watchwords but if one wanted to add an extra one what more obvious than Semper Paenitere, always repenting?
When Luther nailed his famous 95 theses to the Wittenberg castle church door this issue was top of the agenda. The theses, originally in Latin but soon translated, began, Out of love and zeal for truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following theses will be publicly discussed at Wittenberg under the chairmanship of the reverend father Martin Luther, master of arts and sacred theology and regularly appointed lecturer on these subjects at that place. He requests that those who cannot be present to debate orally with us will do so by letter. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. When our Lord & Master Jesus Christ said Repent [Matthew 4:17], he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
2. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.
3. Yet it does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner repentance is worthless unless it produces various outward mortifications of the flesh.
We need to hear this message again today.
1. Paenitere
The Bible calls on us in many places to repent. Think of the preaching of John the Baptist, of Christ himself, of the apostles. But what does it mean to repent? Roman Catholicism taught that it meant Do penance. One of Luther’s greatest rediscoveries was that the Greek word translated in the Latin Vulgate Do penance actually means Be penitent or Repent. This is not the same as remorse or regret although it includes that. There is a different Greek word for that. No, Repent means Change your mind, turn away from sin.
The word occurs 57 times in the New Testament. It can refer more generally to conversion but usually refers to the other side of faith. Sometimes the apostles called for repentance, sometimes for faith. Both are God given (See Acts 5:31, 11:18). Both are necessary to salvation. There is no forgiveness except through faith and repentance. Faith and repentance are possible only because of Christ’s work on the cross. 
As Luther says, true repentance has inward and outward aspects. In 1826 John Colquhoun produced an excellent work on repentance. There he turns to 2 Corinthians 7 for an anatomy of what is involved. Paul talks there about godly sorrow in contrast to worldly sorrow. The roots of true repentance lie in this godly sorrow. Its fruit is salvation and no regret. This godly sorrow is characterised by,
Earnestness, not complacency about sin; Eagerness to clear one's name - not excuses but a desire for pardon; Indignation or hatred towards sin; He is angry and sins not when he is angry at nothing but sin and angry with himself only because he has sinned comments Colquhoun. There is also Alarm or Fear of sinning and provoking God’s wrath; there is Longing for a thorough reformation, to be right with God; there is Concern or Zeal to see sin dealt with, for God’s glory and in order to be holy; Readiness to see justice done, one pronounces the death sentence on self. Outwardly there must also be a change of behaviour. See Acts 26:20. Think of Zacchaeus or the occultists converted at Ephesus (Acts 20:18,19). Think of all that the book of Exodus has to say about restitution. Have you truly repented?
2. Semper paenitere
Like faith, repentance must be a life long thing. That is clear from the New Testament. See, for example, Romans 12:2 and Ephesians 4:23, which both speak of the Christian’s mind being changed or renewed. Even a man of God can wander. When he wanders he must be brought back. Think of David or Peter. Think of the Bible’s emphasis on restoration of the fallen. Restoration is always by way of repentance. Repentance then has to be a daily thing, an hourly thing. Is it with you?
Originally published in GraceMagazine
* The rediscovery came to Luther from Lorenzo Valla via Erasmus
** John Colquhoun 1748-1827magazine

Lord's Day November 12 2017


It was a great day yesterday and with a lot going on. We began with the two minutes silence for Remembrance Day then we proceeded with our usual morning service. At the end of this we had a baptism, the second this year. The woman involved grew up in Pakistan and so it was an unusual baptism for us. We are so glad she has come to this point. I preached on Lydia from Acts 16. Following the service we had a lovely meal together, something we try to do every other month. I prefer to have baptisms in the evening as the evening service can be a bit of a damp squib otherwise. It was okay, as it turned out. We looked at the feeding of the 4000 from the end of Matthew 15 with not a bad turn out. It is encouraging to know that others in the congregation are thinking of baptism.

10 Cities that have changed their names


1. Bratislava (after 1783) in Slovakia was once better known as Pressburg (German name) or Pozsony (Hungarian name)
2. Tokyo (ie Eastern Capital since 1868) in Japan was once Edo
3. Oslo (since 1925) in Norway was once Christiania (1838) and Kristiania (1877) though Oslo is the orginal name.
4. Istanbul (the most common name for the city after 1928) in Turkey having once been known as Byzantium then Constantinople (from 330 AD)
5. Ho Chi Minh City (since 1976) in Vietnam was once Prey Nokor  and Gia Định and Saigon
6. Harare (since 1982) in Zimbabwe was once Salisbury (and the country was called Rhodesia)
7. Volgograd (since 1961) was once Tsaritsyn (1589-1925) and Stalingrad (1925-1961)
8. Nuuk (ie Cape since 1979) in Greenland was once Godthaab and Godthåb
9. Chennai (since 1996) in India was once Madras
10. Polokwane (since 2005) in South Africa was once Pietersburg

10 Ways of dealing with dead bodies

1. Burial
Burial is the act of interring a person or object in the ground, and is probably the simplest and most common method of disposing of a body. It is generally accepted to be one of the earliest detectable forms of religious practice. Christian burials soemtimes demand that the body be laid flat, with arms and legs extended and aligned east-west, with the head at the western end of the grave. This is to allow them to view the coming of Christ on Judgment day. In Islam, the head is pointed toward and the face turned to Mecca. Warriors in some ancient cultures were interred upright, and an upside down position is typically symbolic of suicides, or as a punishment.
2. Burial at Sea
Burial at sea is the term used for the procedure of disposing of human remains in the ocean. Many cultures have regulations to make burial at sea accessible and it is fast becoming a popular choice. Traditionally, the service is conducted by the captain or commanding officer of the ship or aircraft.
Possibilities include burial in a weighted casket, burial in an urn, being sewn into sailcloth or scattering the cremated remains. 
Most major religions permit burial at sea, and some have very specific rituals concerning it. 
3. Entombment
Entombment is the act of placing human remains in a structurally enclosed space or burial chamber. The body is not consigned directly to the earth but rather is kept within a specially designed sealed chamber. There are many different forms of tombs, from mausoleums to elaborate (and often decorative) family crypts to a simple cave with a sealed entrance.
4. Cremation
Cremation is the process of reducing dead bodies to basic chemical compounds in the form of gases and bone fragments. This is most often performed in a crematorium, though some cultures, such as in India, do practice open-air cremation. Generally, temperatures of no less than 1500oF are required to ensure complete disintegration. After the process is complete, the dry bone fragments that remain are swept out of the retort (the chamber in which the body is immolated) and passed through a cremulator. This machine grinds the bones into a fine, sand-like powder.
5. Exposure
Exposure is not typically practiced intentionally in the West today. However, there are people who dispose of bodies in this manner on a regular basis. Tibetan sky burial (known as a jahtor ) is the ritual dissection of the body, which is then laid out for the animals or the elements to dispose of. After being sent on their way with ceremony, the remains of the deceased are toted up to a designated location, where the body is laid out (typically naked). Then the rogyapas (body-breakers) go to work. Parsees in India do soemthing similar but rely on the birds to deal with the yogurt coated bodies. The bones then fall into a pit.
6. Mummification
The Egyptians are the best-known practitioners of this process (although they are far from the only ones), in which a corpse has its skin and organs preserved, by either intentional or incidental exposure to chemicals, extreme cold, very low humidity or lack of air. The oldest mummy found to date was a decapitated head that dates back to 6000 BC. The earliest Egyptian mummy dates back to about 3300 BC. It is possible for a body to undergo natural mummification. The extreme cold of a glacier in the Ötztal Alps resulted in the mummification of a hunter who lived about 5,300 years ago, now known as Ötzi the Iceman. Bog bodies, who were victims of murder or ritual sacrifice, are a common find in certain parts of Europe.
7. Taxidermy
Taxidermy is the act of mounting, or reproducing, dead animals for display (eg. as hunting trophies) or for other sources of study. However, some people haven’t let that stop them from having themselves taxidermied after death. The process is rather simple, but requires a lot of skill. The animal is skinned and the innards disposed of. The skin is tanned and then placed on a polyurethane form. Clay is used to install glass eyes. Forms and eyes are commercially available from a number of suppliers. If not, taxidermists carve or cast their own forms.
One example is that of philospher Jeremy Bentham.
8. Cryonics
Cryonics is the low-temperature preservation of humans and animals who can no longer be sustained by contemporary medicine, with the hope that healing and resuscitation may be possible in the future.
9. Plastination
As perhaps the ultimate bid for immortality, plastination is a technique used in anatomy to preserve bodies or body parts. The water and fat are replaced by certain plastics, yielding specimens that can be touched, do not smell or decay and even retain most properties of the original sample. The resultant plastinates can be manipulated and positioned as desired. Plastinates are used as museum displays, as teaching tools and in anatomy studies.
10. Aquamation
Aquamation is said to be the most environment-friendly way of disposal of human bodies. The process involves the rapid disintegration of the human body into high quality fertilizers. In comparison with cremation, about 10% of the energy is used, and all of the associated pollution is avoided. With Aquamation, an individual body is gently placed in a clean, stainless steel vessel. A combination of water flow, temperature (~90C) and alkalinity are used to accelerate the natural course of tissue hydrolysis. Typically the process takes about four hours to complete.

Steve Howe - Mood For A Day

Midweek Meeting November 8 2017


Just nine of us last night as we began on that difficult but challenging chapter Leviticus 19. I think it i is easier to preach then to explain. That is to say it is easier to apply the various verses than itito explain why you are applying them in that particular way. Most of us prayed in the preyaer time. There is always plenty to pray about.

Another Childs Hill Sunset


Julie Fowlis in Milton Keynes November 2017


Tuesday is my official day off and I really enjoyed this last one with a long walk with the dog in the morning (good for him and good for me) and a return to The Stables n Milton Keynes, this time to see Julie Fowlis live. I had a front row seat and really enjoyed the excellent double set, as did the 300 or so also there. With Julie the band consisted, as usual, of Eamon Dooley and Tony Byrne (on guitars) and Duncan Chisholm (on fiddle) with Patsy Reid othis time on viola. Julie not only sang but played various instruments including various whistles, a ukulele adn three different whistles.
The prgram was a masterful blend of the pretty obscure with the more immediately accessible. So we started with  a Gaelic song, Oran an Roin, about seals but that soon merged with the now well known Puirt a beul track  Hug air a bhonaid mhoir. Just when it got rather Gaelic we had first Anne Briggs' achingly beautiful Go your way and later Paul McCartney's Blackbird (in Gaelic). In the second half there was plenty more obscurity including a Galician/Gaelic song Camariñas but with a few more instrumentals too. SOmehow she even had us sing along to the chorus of Smeorach Chlann Domhnaill.
All too soon the time had one but we were able to get them back on for an encore. Up until that point, with no bozouki or bodhran, I thought all insturments beginning with the letter B had been banned but then at the very end doing something I had not seen on the two previous occassions of hearing them - Julie on the bagpipes. What an encore! Patsy Reid kindly let me have her playlist at the end and I collected Julie and Eamon's autographs again before heading off and being home by 11 pm.

10 Wales Rugby Managers in my Lifetime

Henry Hansen
There have been many more rugby managers compared with football managers. Here are ten, all Welshmen except the Kiwis Henry, Hansen and Gatland. Statistically the most successful was John Dawes.

1. Clive Rowlands 1968–74
2. John Dawes 1974–79
3. John Lloyd 1980–82
4. John Bevan 1982–85
----------------------------
5. Kevin Bowring 1995–98
6. Graham Henry 1998–2002
7. Steve Hansen 2002–2004
8. Mike Ruddock 2004–2006
9. Gareth Jenkins 2006–2007
10. Warren Gatland 2007– present

10 Wales Football Managers in my Lifetime

Speed and Hughes
Excluding caretaker managers 10 men have managed or coached the Welsh national soccer team in my lifetime. All were Welshmen except Mike Smith and Bobby Gould.

1. Jimmy Murphy 1956–1964
2. Dave Bowen 1964–1974
3. Mike Smith 1974–1979/1994-1995
4. Mike England 1979–1987
5. Terry Yorath 1988–1993
6. John Toshack 1994/2004-2010
7. Bobby Gould 1995–1999
8. Mark Hughes 1999–2004
9. Gary Speed 2010–2011
10. Chris Coleman 2012–present

Luther once again


It was good to be in Westminster Baptist Church once again on Monday for the Westminster Fellowship. Dr Robert Oliver spoke on first on Luther and then on what we can do to conserve the Reformation gains - namely in the areas of Scripture, worship and confessionalism. Dr Oliver is an excellent historian and was able to retell the story with quiet skill, highlighting things that I have missed so far this year (for example that Luther was a friar not a monk as he is usually called and how although Luther was generally unimpressed with Rome the hospitals did impress him). We had a good discussion session too. An interesting question was the construction of confessions. I sought to make the point that confessions are not only a doctrinal stick to beat out heretics but a doctrinal carrot that omits certain controversial matters in order to foster unity (my example was friends in Cyprus who omit the filioque clause in their standards not because they do not believe it but becasue it is such a cause of contention in the Greek speaking world; Mostyn Roberts referenced the way Christ's active obedoence is not stated in the Westminster Confession). This point appeared to be lost on some of those present. We were about twenty all told. Richard March from Milton Keynes chaired.

Credit where credit is due

I often complain about the poor Bible knowledge displayed by the University Cheallenge teams. All credit to UCL last night though; they got all three questions bang on. The first was on the third book of the Bible, the second on Elisha and the bears and the third on Canaan, Ham and Noah (The UCL Captain reminded me of Ryan Giggs)..

Lord's Day November 5 2017


It was a case of the Monday blues again yesterday - not for any particular reason though I could list several factors that might have played their part (one is missing having a fellow elder). Anyway, I just got on with things and wated for it to lift, which it di gradually at first and then particuallry with the wings of a verse of Scripture. I have been reading through Psalm 119 recently a stanza at a time and yesterday I came to the last verse - I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands. It seemed to me that fitted my mood perfectly and I was thankful to have come to it again. 
We began the Lord's Day with communion and we also welcomed in a new member. This is the lady I baptised back in the summer but she has been in Turkey a good deal since then. She was telling us how she had recently visited Ephesus and had loved seeing the site of Paul's labours and those of John whose tomb is said to be there. I hope to baptise someone else next week.
I carrie don in Acts in the morning looking at the healing of Aeneas and then in the evening we were in Matthew 15 again and talking about the Canaanite woman who Jesus was so stern with, not an easy passage in many ways. Several were away for several reasons. Some I wonder f we willever seeagain. Where are they? I felt both sermons lacked something. Prayer is so important.

10 glands in the human body

A gland can be defined as an organ that produces and releases substances that perform a specific function in the body. There are many of these in the human body. Here are ten.

1. The Adrenal glands are a pair of glands located (as the word itself would suggest) atop each kidney that produce adrenaline, etc.
2. The hypothalamus gland is found in the brain and links the nervous system to the endocrine system via the pituitary gland.
3. The pineal gland (so called because it is apparently pine shaped) is also in the brain, in the mid-cranium behind the forehead. It produces melatonin, a serotonin derived hormone which modulates sleep patterns in both circadian and seasonal cycles.
4. The pituitary is at the base of the brain and secretes hormones that help control growth, blood pressure, certain functions of the sex organs, thyroid glands and metabolism as well as some aspects of pregnancy, childbirth, nursing, water/salt concentration at the kidneys, temperature regulation and pain relief.
5. The thyroid is a two-part gland on the front of the windpipe shaped like a butterfly. It secretes thyroid hormones, which primarily influence the metabolic rate and protein synthesis. The hormones also have many other effects including those on development.
6. The thymus gland is under the breast bone in the upper chest. Within the thymus, T cells mature. T cells are critical to the adaptive immune system, where the body adapts specifically to foreign invaders.
7. The pancreas is found below the stomach and it produces insulin and other important hormones.
8. The prostate gland surrounds the urethra just below the urinary bladder and secretes secrete a slightly alkaline fluid, milky or white in appearance, that in humans usually constitutes roughly 30% of the volume of the semen.
9. Olfactory glands or Bowman's glands are found in the nose, in the olfactory region. They secrete the gel-forming mucin MUC5AC(UniProtKB: P98088). They may also secrete proteins and other matter.
10. Henle glands or crypts of Henle (a 19th century German scientist) are microscopic pockets found in scattered sections of the conjunctiva around the eyeball. They are responsible for secreting mucin, a proteinous substance that makes up the inner layer of tears. It coats the cornea to provide a hydrophilic layer that allows for even distribution of the tear film. 

Midweek Meeting November 1 2017


Somehow there were 12 there on Wednesday, which was very encouraging. We were in Leviticus 18, highly topical this week with all the media attention on politicians and sexual harassment. I tackled the passage in a rather pedestrian way I suppose, which is the way in which it is set down but perhaps a bit more flare could have been employed on my part. Our chief problems do not lie in the are of incest but elsewhere, I would guess and I should have reflected that. Anyway, we had a good prayer time to follow. I had to allow an extra five or ten minutes to fit everything in.

Trini Lopez - If I Had A Hammer (1963)


I've always liked this jolly song. Trinidad Lopez is from Texas.

Celebrity Spotting


I can't help myself but celebrity spot, especially living where we do. I saw two on Hampstead Heath yesterday - Bill Oddie and Nick Robinson. It was David Baddiel the other week. All locals I guess.

10 British Dicky Birds and their nicknames

I heard soemone on the radio yesterday saying that Robin is only a nickname for the redbreast. It set me researching after other bird names. It seems there was a time when many types had nicknames. Some (like jackdaw and magpie) have become part of the name. All small birds are nicknamed Dick.

1. Robin Redbreast
2. Jenny Wren
3. Tom Tit
4. Jackdaw
5. Kittiwake
6. Maggie pied Magpie (originally just a Pie, Mag is permanently attached)
7. Philip Sparrow
8. Mavis Song Thrush
9. Ralph Raven
10. Jacob Starling