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.
It was good to have the opportunity of hearing Al Mohler wiht the students at London Seminary this morning. Dr Mohler specialises in looking at the world as it is and encouraging a Christian approach to it all. He spoke for two 45 minute periods broken by coffee and then opened up for questions, soemthing he does regularly on Youtube and which he did well today, answering questions on Islam, hell and witness. His clarification on the term Post-Christian (not post a period when everyone was a Christian but post a time when everyone accepted certain Christian tenets) was helpful. He also made a helpful point regarding Islam that it is more a way of life than a belief system as such.
Dr Mohler could come over a s name dropper as he has read so widely adn met with all sorts of people. It would be a mistake to think like that. No, here is a fine mind honed by Scripture and careful thinking about what those who oppose the gospelsay.
He quoted himself at one point, "The culture says you have an alien problem to be solved by an inner solution. The gospel says you have an inner problem that will be solved only by an alien righteousness.” That is very helpful. I believe that the quotation is from a message given a conference adn preached as “Preaching with the Culture in View”. See Preaching the Cross, Together for the Gospel (Wheaton, IL: Crossway 2007), p 81.a
We were a good number midweek as we began on the teaching from Leviticus on infectious skin diseases. We tackled 13:1-46. I was eager not to be too long as I wanted to allow time for both prayer and a church members meeting. We did not do too badly althoiugh it was gone ten by the time we had finsihed everything. The reason for the members meeting was that we wish to baptise two people shortly and welcome two others already baptised into membership. (We did not absolutely insist on baptism by immersion but it is the norm here). We were all agreed on the way forward. It was a great privilege to hear these four testimonies. The way it works with us is that after speaking to the pastor candidates for membership are interviewed by two members either alone or with someone else who is applying. We seek to establish that they are converted and living the Christian life and how they might contribute to the life of the church. The first of the two baptisms will eb this Lord's Day, God willing.
1. José de San Martín General
2. Ernesto "Che" Guevara revolutionary
3. Eva Peron first lady
4. Juan Manuel Fangio racing driver
5. Jorge Luis Borges writer
6. Diego Maradona footballer
7. Roberto de Vincenzo golfer
8. Guillermo Vilas tennis player
9. Lionel Messi footballer
10. Pope Francis
The papers for the 2016 Conference last December are now available from the conference secretary, John Harris.
(Secretary the Westminster conference, 18 Nook Green Dewsbury West Yorkshire WF12 0BJ UK)
|The above shows the team eating together one evening|
There are arguments for and against a special week of mission in a local church. The chief argument against is that every week should be mission week and a special effort risks introducing an artificial and unsustainable note to the work that risks demeaning the regular efforts. On the other hand, a special effort can sometimes reach people otherwise unreached and, if visitors are invited in to help, can be a help to them as well as the church itself.
Missions have been rare here in Childs Hill. We have just had what must be the third or fourth in 34 years. As I begin to recover I thought I might briefly report.
We know Hicham from France well and he has led church missions and so we followed the pattern he is familiar with. This involved gathering a team to do formal evangelism chiefly Saturday to Thursday in the week June 10-15. Our team was a little on the small side - three full time and four more for the last two days plus two or three visitors on the Thursday with help from five or six members at various times, including me.
We started each day with breakfast in church followed by prayer and a short Bible study. We then spent 90 minute sessions morning and afternoon delivering leaflets and invites, door knocking or speaking to people in the streets of Golders Green, our nearest shopping centre. We ate lunch in the church and evening meal either there or in homes.
In the evenings we had excellent and well attended seminars on reaching Jews and Muslims on Monday and Tuesday; Wednesday was our regular midweek meeting; and on Wednesday we had an evangelistic meeting with Mick Lockwood from Haworth.
on the Wednesday morning the Mothers and Toddlers group had a bouncy castle and some of the team took opportunity to mingle. One young woman very helpfully gave a testimony.
We prepared 10,000 A3 leaflets containing testimonies, messages and information and gave away about half of these plus nearly a thousand postcards inviting people to hear Mick. We also had other literature to give away - Gospels, UQs, etc.
We were able to reconnect with several people we already know and some fresh faces. Some few came to meetings on the Thursday and Lord's Day. Some, such as the atheist who wrote to complain, and the people who saw us talking at length to the son of a rabbi, were not happy but generally speaking we did ourselves good. The feedback answered questions such as, say, where most Jews and Muslims and Filipinos tend to be found, the fact there are Syrians in the area as well as Iranians and the fact some have little English.
It was a worthwhile effort. We are very grateful to the team who helped us and to Mick Lockwood and "Mr McH" in particular. Last time we had a mission we were unable to follow up the next year. I would hope that now we have a clear plan of approach we might try again next Junes or July.
It was hot yesterday, of course, but our building is not too bad. By the evening we had set up some fans.
As is most often the case we had a large morning congregation and a small evening one. In the morning we had at least two visitors responding to our leaflet distribution - one professing faith, one not. I was on Stephen's sermon in Acts 7, not the easiest place to start, perhaps. I did make a mistake in having such a long reading. I should have dropped the consecutive reading (the Witch of Endor) and taken Acts 7 in two bites. What I did in fact was to have us sing one verse of our third hymn after the reading and then prayed before the final two verses. Many people missing but some visitors and some of the missing had returned. We had communion in the evening. I read from 1 John 4. I preached on the parable of the net.
We have had a mission this week delivering leaflets door to door and on the streets. One irate atheist wrote a long e-mail to me complaining. I wrote back with this e-mail.
Dear Sebastian (not his real name)
Thank you for your long letter. It is always good to get a response even if it is a negative one. You say that you received a ‘Come Take a Look’ leaflet through your door from our “organisation”. I should explain that we are just a little group of local people with plenty of links to others and getting some help this week but not part of some big organisation in the accepted sense.
I note your vehement objection but I do not see that we have been shameful or wasteful. Your use of the word “foist” is highly contentious. We simply offer leaflets. No-one is being forced to read them. You helpfully mention reasons for objecting to our ‘evangelising’. They turn out to be pretty flimsy as far as I can see.
The first point makes no sense. I can only assume there is a typo. Your second point shows a lamentable ignorance of British history. If you care to do a little research you will discover that Baptists were fiercely persecuted in earlier times. That came to an end in 1689 but we were still subjected to various disadvantages for our faith, including being effectively barred from the universities until the 19th century. Thankfully, we live in partly more enlightened times and we have the right to go on to the street and let people know what we believe. Long may that right continue.
I do know that the Golders Green area has a large Jewish population. Having said that, it is still only 15% in Barnet, meaning that 85% of the people we are likely to meet are not Jewish. We are not cynically or provocatively trying to foist Baptism on anyone. You would be surprised, perhaps, how slow we are in fact to baptise anyone. (By the by are you aware that the Jew themselves have miqvot all over the area where they happily get baptised on a regular basis?). Again, your ignorance is letting you down I fear. Have you ever come across Messianic Jews? These are Jews who have become Christians. True Christians tend to be more respectful to Jews than most.
The only person being provocative here is you with your suggestion that you are going to report me and the church to the council! Have you done that? I have not heard from anyone. Perhaps you have rethought it – why give them all that free publicity, eh? What exactly would be “appropriate action”?
If you are aware of any hungry or homeless people in the area, please let us know. Our resources are small but we have been able to help people in the past. Another point, you seem to think we are fundamentalist Christians. Now we certainly take a firm stand on the fundamentals but we probably fall short of the accepted definition. As for “bothering people with religion” we are with you on your apparent opposition to religion. It was religious people who were largely responsible for Jesus's death and religion has clearly been responsible for many ills in this world. No, we are not peddling religion. If that is the impression we have given then I am sorry. We are talking about a personal relationship with God himself, something he brings about not us.
As you are perhaps aware, atheism is not a philosophically tenable position. You do not know everything and so it may be that one thing you do not know is God. If you would care to take a look at one of the many books on the resurrection of Jesus you will find that it is a well established historical fact. The virgin birth is not susceptible to the same sort of demonstration and so it is a matter of faith. As for the immaculate conception we are totally agreed – utter nonsense.
You are rather dismissive of the Bible. I wonder if you have actually read it. I think you would be much less dismissive if you knew it better. I would be happy to provide you with a copy or even help you read through it if you wish. I am a graduate in English literature and have a history degree too and I can assure you that a knowledge of the Bible will open up real vistas if you have any interest in these areas. Your self-confessed failure to see how a book that was written some 2000 years ago (well over that in the case of the Old Testament) can be applicable in the modern world is most understandable. It amazes me too. However, once you see that the New Testament lays down principles applicable in any age and culture it all begins to open up.
Your antipathy to creationism is no surprise. There is nothing nonsensical about it. That adjective could be applied more appropriately to evolution. You say that science has disproved the young earth idea but that is only true if you accept the theory of uniformitarianism, which cannot be proved. As you probably know, the reliability of carbon dating and radio isotopes is hotly debated. Having said that, if the Bible is wrong on creation then that undermines the whole thing, as you say. Hey, that's something else we agree on!
Your advocacy of keeping religion private is the mantra of the day and I am well aware of the desire many have for our types to shut up. But then if you believe what we believe there is no way you can go private. Anyway, why should we be quiet when someone like Richard Dawkins grabs all the publicity he can get? Hardly fair. How about if you keep your atheism to yourself? You say that you believe that I have every right to follow a religion if I so choose but I believe I ought to let people know what I believe.
I love your list near the end of your letter - subservient, non-questioning, irrational, hypocritical, and utterly disconnected from the realities of modern life. I cannot think of anyone in the church who fits such a description. Okay, may be we are a bit hypocritical, sometimes.
I see that you have checked out the scientific evidence on whether prayers do anything at all. The evidence is pretty poor you are right. It is a very difficult thing to examine scientifically. Your idea of prayer as a selfish act is most interesting. I suppose that you are just thinking of one sort of prayer, supplication. There is also confession, praise and thanksgiving. As someone who tries to pray often I can assure you that feeling good is not the usual feeling that prayer produces. I agree that there are selfish prayers but everything in the Bible encourages the very opposite attitude.
Your conclusion that “religion, all religion, belongs in the dustbin of history” has often been said but so far has proved hollow.
If you let me have your address I will do all I can to avoid bothering you with further leaflets. As I said at the beginning we are not a large organisation so I cannot totally guarantee that it will not happen again. If it does, just bin it.
We've had our mission this week so I've been extra busy. Let me just mention our regular midweek meeting. We were supplemented by members of the team and I wanted to allow plenty of time for prayer so seeing that the next chapter in Leviticus (12) was a short one I thought I'd press on even though it was purification rites in connection with child birth. Part of my thinking was that no-one in the room had heard a message on Leviticus 12 before and no-one was likely to hear one again any time soon. So we got through it just about. The only fly in the ointment for me was the fact that a Spanish lady who has come the last to or three weeks failed to show and we may have inadvertently caused the problem by leaving a door shut too long. I hope we see her again. It would be especially ironic if we unintentionally snubbed someone in the midst of making great attempt to reach others.
This Lord's Day was a bit different in that this week is a week of mission for us in Childs Hill and so that was much in mind. We started on Saturday and continued Sunday afternoon, preceded by a fellowship lunch together and followed by a fellowship tea.
The team is very small and only four are with us so far - three from France and one from Ulster. We also had a Korean visitor and a man from Middlesborough who we have seen before. Lots of Iranians and others missing again, however.
It was nice to have lunch together and begin to get to know the team. I preached on Stephen, a hero for our times, from Acts 6 and The pearl of great value from Matthew 13.
Among conversations today was one with a member concerned about a relative who just won't get a job. What to do? Another had been glad to witness to people in Golders Green but still gets overwhelmed at God's goodness to him.
(One thing I forgot to say was that a young man we know wandered in. He was high on something I fear. He still understood what was said. He appeared t think wehave trouble ahead if we persist with such ideas.)
(One thing I forgot to say was that a young man we know wandered in. He was high on something I fear. He still understood what was said. He appeared t think wehave trouble ahead if we persist with such ideas.)
I've not yet taken opportunity here to say what a good time we had on Monday at the Evangelical Library when our annual lecture was given by Phil Arthur from Lancaster speaking on 1517 and Martin Luther.
With such an excellent speaker and topic I could have wished for a better attendance, though we must have been around thirty and pretty much filled the room. We were also quite on the grey side, it is true, but it was pure joy to see three generations from one family all represented on the front row.
Phil simply took us through the early part of Luther's life - his upbringing, conversion and the beginnings of the Reformation. As a trained historian he knows this material very well and was able to put it across in a manner that was very easy on the ear. I was rather tired for some reason but my attention kept up throughout.
A recording of the paper is available from the Library and I hope that in due time that we will publish a written version of the paper in In Writing (I am conscious that the paper from last year on J C Ryle is still outstanding but I will get to it). Even as I write, Phil is busy correcting the manuscript for the press. He has had ill health for a little while and now has to use voice recognition software to get things down. If you have ever used such software you will know that errors can easily creep in and he wants to iron these out before publication.
It was good to spend a little time with Phil, who is currently on sabbatical from Lancaster but will begin again, part time, in September.
So we - my wife, my son and I - headed off to our local school to vote. It must be exciting voting for the first time but we live in Barnet and so, unsurprisingly in some ways, my 18 year old could not do so. He had registered online within the stipulated deadline but Barnet, without letting him know he needed to send it, had not had his proofs of identification. So no actually he didn't vote. As he himself observes "so when they talk about the lack of Young voters maybe they should think about the system being broken rather than trying to figure out what's wrong with British youth?" Like his dad he enjoys a good rant, but how much better to have been voting, like his friends in Camden.
I've been reflecting on events this year so far and these texts have come to mind. They are worth considering.
1. 1 Timothy 5:24 The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgement ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them.
2. Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
3. 1 Peter 5:8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
4. Romans 7:1, 19 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.
5. Proverbs 28:26 Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.
6. Ecclesiastes 9:3 This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterwards they join the dead.
7. Isaiah 2:22 Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?
8. Psalm 118:8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in humans.
9. Hebrews 12:2a fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
10. Matthew 16:18a I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
We began, as usual at the beginning of a new month, with communion. In the morning I preached on the first half of Acts 6, drawing out seven principles, which I labelled using the names of the seven "deacons". In the evening we looked at just one verse - Matthew 13:44 and the parable of the buried treasure. There seemed to be lots and lots of people missing (no Iranians) and in the evening we were down to 14, which doesn't sound too bad but we were all spread about. In the morning there was a lady who had married in the church 60 years before and since buried two husbands and lived in Idaho. It was part of a trip down memory lane.
I heard the news of the London terrorists only in the morning and did debate briefly whether to preach a special. It seemed wiser to carry on as intended, although in praying about it I was relaying news to some. I probably should have referred to it at the beginning of the meeting. It is always difficult to know what is on whose mind.
We seem to be through our present cycle of new faces and are back to our where are they phase. That is how it seems to go in Childs Hill, Frustrating.
Somewhere in the midst of quite a busy week last week I headed down to Cardiff to stay briefly with my son Dylan (and Cat briefly). We then spent much of the day in Hay-on-Wye beginning at the showground where the thirtieth Hay Festival was in full swing and moving on to the town famous for its second hand bookshops.
I've only been to Hay once or twice before and as before I found that although one starts off quite excited that slowly wears off and at the end you are glad to be gone. The reasons for the frustration is the narrowing down pretty much just to books, the sheer volume of these and, above all, the almost non-existence of a bargain. All the books are carefully priced so much so that even the bargain books at £1 yield nothing you might actually want. This leaves a bad taste in the mouth in that part of the frisson of secondhand books is the thought of a bargain. I you were looking for a long lost title I can imagine the experience being rewarding but for bargain hunters l like myself ...,
Having said that, it was a lovely sunny day and it was good to be with Dylan. We enjoyed chips at lunch time and a nice Shepherd's ice cream, I was a bit tired driving back but happy.
A little ,ate with this again but we had a good turn out on Wednesday, even though it was half term and some were away. A new lady from the area was there. She wants to get to know the Bible. I arrived late which is never a good start but I did recover and was able to speak on Leviticus 10 and led a good prayer time. Most people prayed. Leviticus 10 is an interesting chapter. We have recently looked at Acts 5 and there are definitely parallels there.
Eleri's cousin and his wife run the EMW's residential centre in Brynygroes, Bala, in North Wales. One of the advantages of this is that they can invite the whole extended family and one or two others over when it is not otherwise in use, thus filling up the already quite busy programme and spending some quality time with their nearest and dearest. Such a gathering took place recently somewhere between May 28 and 30. There was some fluctuation but at its height I think there were well over thirty around (that still leaves 18 not there but it's still a big and varied number). We played games, ate, talked and talked, played games (codenames is our current favourite), celebrated the eightieth birthday of Eleri's Uncle Keith,etc, etc. I enjoyed dipping into some Thomas Charles and doing some drawing. It is wonderful to belong to such a varied family (ages nought to eighty; monoglot Londoners to those more at home in Welsh; ministers, teachers, housewives, artists, medics and a police community support officer) where so many have trusted in the Lord.. Great time.