Monday Music Plus! (How to be a one-buttock liver!)
This is still music, but it's rather more. The whole thing is well worth a watch. I'd not heard of this guy (Benjamin Zander) before - my ignorance, I'm sure. This video says a great deal about life and leadership.
Here and here Reformation 21 (in the persons of Paul Levy and Carl Trueman) celebrates the ministry of the late Douglas MacMillan, the best preacher I ever heard. I'd never heard OF him when I was present at the Aberystwyth Conference back in 1979. He preached the now-legendary series on Psalm 23; this former Highland Shepherd and giant of a man made the whole psalm live. As an expositor, Lloyd-Jones was better; but as a preacher, MacMillan left him standing.
Not many years later, I met him. I'd gone for the very first time to the Bala Ministers' Conference. I'd only graduated from LTS two days earlier, but I really wanted to hear this man again. I remember going in to the dining room (sensibly, the conference began with lunch) and seeing that all the tables were already filling up. On each of them was a minister I was still inclined to call 'Mr' - Graham Harrison on one, Hywel Jones on another, Hugh Morgan, Andrew Davies... How could I possibly sit with them. (I'm a very shy man.) Oh, bless the Lord! There's one table with no-one sitting at it at all. Quick, Gary.
So I sat down, and was aware as I sat that someone had followed me and was sitting opposite me. Looking up, there was Big Douglas, stretching out a massive hand to me and saying 'Hello, I'm Douglas. Who are you?' (I'm not sure I could remember at that point!)
I've never forgotten that. As he walked into the dining room he must have seen those men - his friends. But he saw one young, lonely, nervous preacher sitting alone. He ignored his friends, and sat with me. He was a Big Man.
You've never heard him preach? In the words of the song, 'betcha by golly, wow! Some of his sermons are on the web; you could try this one, from a different 'Aber.' But really you need to get hold of his sermons on Psalm 23. The book's worth reading - but hear the sermons first, if you can. How about pestering the Evangelical Movement of Wales to put them on line? And the Free Church of Scotland to make many, many more available?
I pay for my prescriptions in advance; it's (marginally) cheaper since I have ongoing medication for migraines.
I've got a prescription waiting for me at the Pharmacy. Couldn't find my prepayment card, so phoned the Prepayment Office in Newcastle to find out if my last card was still valid. Whoops - no. It expired at the end of August. No problem, though - the nice people at the P-O are quite happy to take my money over the phone and issue me with a card that I can use from today. So I can pick my prescription up immediately. When the snow clears, that is.
But as I settle down to a nice cuppa, I think. And what I think is this - I'm sure I've had a prescription - without paying for it - since August. Check records and yes! I've had two. Oh well; nobody's likely to find out. Except God of course. Nobody's likely to call me to account. Except God of course.
Hmm. Better put the cuppa down and sort it. So I phone the P-O again and explain. Nice lady puts me through to a colleague. 'Oh, no - we don't deal with that. You'll need to phone your local health care trust.' Kindly, she gives me the number in Poole.
Phone the number in Poole. Another nice lady, who transfers me to yet another nice lady. Plainly, only nice ladies have got through the snow today. Anyway, this one says, 'Oh, no. We don't deal with that. You'll need to phone a number in Ferndown.' So I phone a number in Ferndown and get through to a lady - nice one - with a bit of an accent. (I should explain: it sounded very slightly foreign - Indian, perhaps. But the nice lady in Newcastle - now she HAD an accent. But it doesn't count, 'cos it's an English accent. And no doubt it'll improve - when the boat comes in.)
Anyway, I'm now talking to a nice lady in Ferndown - just up the road. And she says (can you guess?) 'Oh, no. We don't deal with that. You'll need to phone a number in Newcastle.' She gives it me. And it's the one I phoned to start with. I explain.
'Oh, OK then. I'll talk to my manager. Just a minute.' Manager comes on - she seems a nice lady, too. 'How can I help?' So I explain.
'OK then,' she says. 'Just give my your address and we'll send you an invoice for the prescriptions you haven't paid for.'
I don't mind the run-around; after all, I did it from my own home and it only took a few minutes. (About 20, I'd say.) But what strikes me - and it's struck me before - officialdom has no well-understood procedure in place to deal with honesty.
Mt. 7:15 "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them.
Acts 20:28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard!
Titus 3:10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. 11 You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
For various reasons, the leadership here at MBC has had to consider what 'wolves' look like, in Christian terms. Here are some basic conclusions of mine based on the above texts:
1. Wolves are not a theoretical problem, but a real one
I think we can take it for granted that neither Paul nor the Lord Jesus are saying: 'For your information, there are wolves. But don't worry, you'll never meet one.' How can we take that for granted? Because the Lord says 'Watch out' and Paul says 'be on your guard'!
2. They are dangerous
Wolves eat sheep. When a church has wolves prowling around, the sheep are in danger. (Obvious, eh? Yep; sometimes the art of Bible teaching is 'stating the obvious'. Then illustrate, and apply.)
3. They are hard to recognise
That is, they are in sheep's clothing. They (apparently) bear many marks - or at least some of the marks - of the true believer.
4. It is possible to recognise them
Otherwise, there'd be no point being told to 'watch out'. They are not easy to spot, but the alert shepherd can spot them.
5. It’s the duty of the shepherds to recognise them
This is an area where greater discernment than the 'average' church member has is needed. Many church members never get beyond the mythical beatitude 'Blessed are the Nice.' But shepherds - elders, pastors, overseers - are to be chosen on the basis of spiritual wisdom and maturity. Discernment is part of that.
6. They are recognised by the effect that they have
That's the clear teaching of Matthew 7:16 (above), where Jesus mixes his metaphors. We recognise wolves not by their intentions - still less by what they say their intentions are - but by what they actually do and the impact that it has. This is a vital point to grasp.
7. Once they are recognised the shepherds must deal with them
Once again, it’s clear that neither Paul nor Jesus means ‘look out for them – and then do nothing about them.’ David (1 Samuel 17:34-37) describes the responsibility of the (literal) shepherd when the flock is threatened, and the (spiritual) shepherd learns his responsibility from the parallel. Often, though, that can be difficult, not least because...
8. They have friends on the leadership
‘From your own number’ (Acts 20:30) means they will have worked closely with other leaders, which makes them difficult to identify and painful to deal with. They have worked themselves onto the leadership somehow - obviously with an appearance of grace and orthodoxy and probably with genuine leadership gifts. Friendship is a good thing; but it may cloud our judgement. 'He can't possibly be a wolf - our children grew up together, we've spent holidays together, we get on really well.' Yes - but what do they do? (See point 6, above)
9. They are not just false teachers
Much of the stress seems throughout the New Testament is on false teaching, but some verses (e.g. Titus 3.10) make it clear that this is not always the problem. False teaching is certainly dangerous and divisive - but there are other ways of being divisive, other ways of damaging the flock. Even the false teachers, though, manage an appearance of orthodoxy, enough to be appointed to the leadership of the church.
I don't know whether there are many/any readers of my blog who don't also see Martin Downes' 'Against Heresies' blog. Today's the day to pray for his nine-year-old daughter Kezia who was recently discovered to have a brain tumour and will be operated on today.
A while ago I e-mailed Crossway in the US to ask why I couldn't get the ESVin epub form, so that I could download it onto my Sony e-reader.
A while later, I received an e-mail in response from one Liz Young, the 'ebook and digital licensing co-ordinator' at Crossway, who assured me that in about a week it would be available. She encouraged me to get in touch again if I had any problems.
Two weeks later, I still couldn't find the file on Crossway's website. I emailed Liz and told her; there'd been problems, she said, but it was there now. She sent me the link. Sure enough, there it was, and I downloaded it. My computer could open it - but I couldn't get it to install on my e-reader.
So I emailed Liz. After a while, she emailed me back and... and we went back and forth like that for a while. She made suggestions, I couldn't do it and said so - and so on.
Eventually, after several emails over most of a day, I was finally able to download the ESV and install it on the e-reader. It's there now.
My point is this: Crossway's representative cared enough to sort out my problem from the other side of the Atlantic. She cared enough to consult her team to discover my problem. She cared enough to keep going until the problem resolved. Then, when I thanked her, she emailed again and thanked ME for alerting them to the problem so that they could help others.
And - to cap it all - the ESV download is free.
Now, that's what I call outstanding customer service. Thank you, Crossway. (Thanks, Liz)
Lynne Truss pointed out years ago that 'A panda is a large black-and-white bear-like mammal that eats, shoots and leaves' means something very different from 'A panda is a large black-and-white bear-like mammal that eats shoots and leaves.' But the difference is only one comma - a mighty comma.
This past Sunday we began our worship with Andrew King's excellent setting of the creed: 'We believe in God Almighty' and someone queried the theology; for one verse says 'Once baptised, our sins forgiven'. They took it to mean that we need to be baptised in order for our sins to be forgiven - and I've heard the point made before. I've even seen it in print.
Once more, it's down to the mighty comma. 'Once baptised our sins forgiven' WOULD mean 'Once baptised our sins are forgiven'. That, of course, is error. But put in the comma, 'once baptised, our sins forgiven' and it becomes a list - a list of things that have happened to the Christian. He has been baptised once, and his sins are forgiven. (It's based, of course, on the Nicene Creed - and see Ephesians 4:5.)
Then again, there's 'Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven'. As it stands, it is calling out to the soul to praise the King of Heaven. Take out the first comma, though ('Praise my soul, the King of Heaven') and it's calling on the King of Heaven to praise my soul. Quite a difference, eh?
Mind you, those of us who know the difference do make mistakes: my very own 'Why Lord?' should, of course, be 'Why, Lord?' As one reviewer pointed out.
If you know just a bit about Buddy Holly, you probably think of 'That'll be the Day' as his first record. But not so: he'd earlier released 'Blue Days, Black Nights' on the Decca label, as well as 'Modern Don Juan'. Neither of them did well, Decca would not renew his contract so he signed with Brunswick Records, and the rest is (very, very brief) history.
Recently I was taken to task for expressing the opinion that someone was a wolf: 'Surely not - he loves the gospel. He may have his problems but 'wolf' is a bit strong.' Well, more of wolves in another post. But it set me thinking about the strong imagery - often negative - in the New Testament, and the anaemic , let's-not-upset-anyone communication that passes for preaching these days. I am, from time to time, 'corrected' when I use strong imagery in my own preaching. But here are some better examples than any of mine:
Matthew 7:15 "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves."
Matthew 7:18,19 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Matthew 23:27 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean."
Now come on Lord, that's a bit harsh. You know, the Pharisees love the Scriptures. I know they don't always agree with your interpretation, and in fact some of them might be hypocrites, as you say. But you can't tar them all with the same brush. I mean - look at Nicodemus. He came to you very respectfully, didn't he?
Other NT writers:
Acts 20:29,30 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.
Galatians 5:12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!
2 Peter 2:12-15 They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish. They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed--an accursed brood! They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness.
2 Peter 3:22 Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit," and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud."
Jude 12-15 They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted--twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him."
Now steady on, Jude - you're getting carried away. I know Jesus is your brother and you've thought a lot about the things that he said - but even he didn't go that far. The men you're talking about hardly deserve your eternal damnation. Even if they did - wild waves of the sea? Moderate your language a bit old chap. This is England you know.
A need for balance?
Yes, of course. But where is the balance, when most preachers insist on speaking of wooden-handled manually operated soil excavation equipment? Where is the language that makes listeners sit up and think 'Wow! This is serious!' Where's the language that lets people know what the preacher really thinks? Whitefield repented in later life of a language too apostolical. Today's preachers need to repent of a language not apostolical enough.
Update on balance..
It's been suggested to me by my reader that balance isn't a helpful concept. Was Jesus - in any of those quotes - balanced? Er - no. Guess not. The correct 'balance' - if we must use the concept - has to be the balance of two different extremes. When Paul says 'speaking the truth in love' he doesn't mean 'Sometimes speak the truth. Sometimes speak in love. Get the balance right.' He means 'Always speak the truth. Always speak in love. Tell it bluntly, and do so because you love the gospel, love the God of the gospel, and love the person you're speaking to.' And that, dear friend, is the balance that's hard. Innit?
This is a very old (1992) article from John Piper - you can either follow the link or read it below.
John Stott has served the church well as pastor, writer, evangelical statesman, missions mobilizer, apologist. He made a profound impact on me in 1967 at Urbana and fanned the flames of my growing zeal for the word of God. He crafted the Lausanne Covenant which I admire. I recall Laurel Bissett’s testimony of how she was converted reading Stott’s Basic Christianity. That story could perhaps be duplicated a thousand times over. I love John Stott and thank God for his ministry.
All the more then do I grieve at his abandonment of the historic biblical truth expressed in our Affirmation of Faith: “We believe in . . . the eternal felicity of the righteous, and theendless suffering of the wicked.” He wrote in 1988, “Emotionally I find the concept [of endless suffering] intolerable and do not understand how people can live with it . . . Scripture points in the direction of annihilation.” This is a tragic defection from historic orthodoxy by one who has championed “Basic Christianity” so faithfully.
Consider what he must do with the Scriptures. For example, on Mark 9:47-48:
If your eye causes you to sin pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
If annihilation is in view, why would Jesus lay stress on the fire never being quenched and the worm never dying? Stott says that the worm will not die nor the fire be quenched “until presumably their work of destruction is done.” That qualification is not in the text. But the focus on eternal duration is confirmed in Matthew 18:8, where the term “eternal hell” is used.
The devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
Stott again struggles in vain to escape the clear intent of the eternal torments of the lake of fire. He says that Revelation 20:10 refers to the beast and false prophet who “are not individual people but symbols of the world in its varied hostility to God. In the nature of the case they cannot experience pain.”
But Stott fails to mention Revelation 20:15 where it says that “if anyone’s name (not just the beast and false prophet) was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Similarly Revelation 21:8 says that it is individual sinners whose “lot shall be the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” And the torment that lasts “for ever and ever” in Revelation 14:10 is precisely the torment of people “with fire and sulfur”—that is, the torment of “the lake that burns with fire and sulfur” (21:8). In other words the “lake of fire” is in view not only, as Stott suggests, when the beast and false prophet and death and hades (20:13) are cast out, but also when individual unbelievers are finally condemned (14:10-11; 20:15; 21:8).
Conclusion: “Watch at all times, praying that you may be able to escape all these things” (Luke 21:36). Pray for evangelical leaders, that they would “contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
Note what Piper does, here. The balance is instructive. The first paragraph lays out the blessing Stott has been to the church, and ends 'I love John Stott and thank God for his ministry.' In fact, even earlier, the piece is entitled 'When a FRIEND takes a wrong turn' (emphasis mine).
Then, immediately, in the second paragraph he pulls no punches: Stott's unorthodox line on hell is called an 'abandonment of the historic biblical truth' and 'a tragic defection from historic orthodoxy by one who has championed 'Basic Christianity' so faithfully'.
Subsequent paragraphs attempt (I think successfully) to show what violence Stott must do to clear Biblical statements in order to maintain an annihilationist position. And after a call to pray that other evangelical leaders won't go the same way, Piper signs off with 'soberly' - it's a big issue, it's an issue that's made him grieve.
I do believe this is one of the areas (others include, for example, ecumenism) where John Stott has done the church a great disservice, making respectable - in some quarters at least - what has hitherto always been regarded as a dangerous departure. If the final fate of the lost is unconscious non-existence, then Jesus died in vain and the Father is a monster - giving his only Son to such agony to save the world from something they would never know about, never feel, never experience.
But I recoil (now - I did not always) from that attitude which says that therefore Stott is some kind of theological leper. He's a good man, a gift to the church - and a flawed man whose statements need to be weighed and sifted. And that, of course, is true of everyone.
May God give us Piper's grace, and Piper's discernment. And may the same God bless and draw near to John Stott in these days when age and ill-health are taking their toll.
Back to the serious this week: some of you have expressed appreciation of my occasional posting of Janine Jansen's videos - and I'm sure it's the quality of her playing, even though only men have commented! Here she is playing Bartok's Romanian Dances. It's the piece my very patient teacher has set me these past five weeks or so - though it doesn't sound much like this when I play it. (Which will be no surprise to those who've heard me; and still less to Stefan.)
'Your old men will dream dreams...' says the Scripture (Acts 2:17)
Hmm. I was talking to a guy recently who belonged to some kind of charismatic house group. He was asking me about a part of the world I'd never heard of. A few years ago, it seems, he'd had a dream about that part of the world and thinks God was telling him that they ought to support missionaries there.
Funny that. Just the night before I'd had a very vivid dream. I couldn't get the TV to turn off. I was using the right remote control, it was set up right. The batteries were fine and I moved nearer and changed the angle - but whatever I did, the TV stayed on.
It's pretty obvious what God was saying to me: I'm far too quick to turn the telly off. I need to watch it more - probably a lot more. I'm a preacher and need to understand society - so don't be turning it off: watch it in abundance.
Mind you - Elaine thinks God's telling me that I just can't turn the TV off. That I'm addicted. That I need to do something about it - I watch so much of it that it's as if the remote control doesn't work. My dream's a warning.
Oh dear. If only God had given us some infallible way of knowing his will. You know - a book, or something, with everything we need for life and godliness.
Many Christian people, who do not exactly talk common sense, sum this all up by saying, that to gain the whole world is to gain nothing at all. Perhaps they are right, but I question if they believe what they assert. They sing just as we have been singing—
"Jewels to thee are gaudy toys,
And gold is sordid dust."
And so they are compared with Christ; but there are some who find unnecessary and absurd fault with the things of this world, and call jewels "gaudy toys," and gold "sordid dust." I have often admired some of my friends, when I have heard them talking about gold as sordid dust; for I wonder why they did not give it to the dustman the next time he came round. If they were to do that, I would not mind going round myself for once with the bell, particularly as it might be rather convenient to us, seeing that we want some of that sordid dust to erect a tabernacle for the Most High. Many who affect to despise wealth are the greatest hoarders of it. I suppose they are afraid it might injure other people's hearts, and, therefore, they put it away very carefully, so that others may not touch the dangerous thing. That may be all very kind of them; but we do not exactly appreciate their benevolent intention, and should think it fully as kind if they were every now and then to distribute some of it. You hear them saying, very often, that "money is the root of all evil." Now, I should like to find that text. But it is not to be found anywhere, from Genesis to Revelation. I found a text once, which said, "The love ofmoney is the root of all evil;" but as for the money itself, I can see very little evil in it. If a man will but rightly use it, I conceive that it is a talent sent from heaven, bestowed by God for holy purposes, and I am quite sure God's talents are not bad ones. My brethren, it is all cant for a man to say that he does not really care for these things, because every one does in some degree; every one wishes to have some of this world; and there really is, in possessing a competency in this world, something considerable with regard to profit; and I am not going to deceive you, by striking off all the profits, and saying you are losers on every point. No, I will go the whole length which any of you like to go, with regard to the profit of this world; if it be considerable. I will admit its greatness; if you think it possible to make a fine thing of this world, I will grant it, if you like; and after having admitted that, I will ask you. "Will it answer your purpose to gain the whole world, in the largest sense of that word, and yet lose your own soul?"
For once, I can't embed this track, so you'll have to go over to Mahaney's blog to hear it. It is, without doubt, the first ever attempt to 'rap' the Heidelberg Catechism.
I make no comment on rap music. I make no comment on its suitability or otherwise for Christian worship. I make no comment at all on whether it's appropriate and helpful for Christian instruction. I just say - go listen.
Then, let me know what you think. Without being sycophantic or offensive.
It's not that long, dear reader (and I know there's one of you) since I was expressing my frustration with the Sony e-reader - nothing wrong with the reader, but compared with Amazon's Kindle there were few books available, and what is available is more expensive.
But - there have been developments!
Did you know that it is possible to borrow e-books? A quick trip to Ferndown Library got me signed up to the Dorset e-library, and a whole host of books to download, free. (It's a wonderful system - after the 7or 14-day loan period they can't be read on the reader: they've been 'returned'.) And guess what? That's right: you can't borrow them for the Kindle! Yay - score 1 for the Sony!
More developments And that's not all. It turns out that free software is available that will allow me to buy 'Kindle' books and convert them to e-pub format for the Sony (or vice-versa, but who cares?) Haven't tried it yet - but I will. And I'll let you know.
Update Ah, no, it didn't work. The software (Calibre) is fine - great, in fact. And it does convert Kindle format to epub, easily. BUT: I downloaded two 'Kindle' books. One of them I had to pay for, the other was on their 'free' list. The free one converted fine. But the other was effectively locked: DRM,it's called - Digital Rights Management. Under the pretext of protecting copyright, Amazon lock the books they sell (at least some of them and as far as I can tell, their site doesn't indicate which ones. I'd guess 'all the ones you pay for') to prevent them being converted. And I say 'sell' - do you know that they don't 'sell' ebooks to you, they lease them? There've been cases recently where they've deleted copies of books from everyone's Kindle, and they defend their right to do so. (You agree to it I guess when you sign up - you know, in that bit you tick to say you've read when in fact you haven't?) Why do I say 'pretext'? Because when you've paid for the books, the authors get their royalties - it doesn't matter to them what gadget you read it on. The only folks Amazon are protecting are Amazon: they sell (sorry, lease) you the book and they're insisting you purchase a Kindle. Like I said - pretext.
‘For over a century now, belief in the devil has seemed to be on the way out. The toothy red imp with the tail and the trident has become a secular figure of fun, while Protestant theologians generally have banished the personal devil of the Bible to the lumber-room reserved for broken-down myths. No doubt this state of affairs is just what the devil has been working for, since it allows him to operate now on the grandest scale without being either detected or opposed.’ (J. I. Packer)
Even if they believe in God, a growing number of people do not believe in the devil at all; it’s a peculiar thing, says Spurgeon, when a man is persuaded not to believe in his own father!
‘We are opposed by a living, intelligent, resourceful and cunning enemy who can outlive the oldest Christian, outwork the busiest, out-fight the strongest and outwit the wisest’ (John Blanchard)
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil—Heb 2.14
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor 15:57
I was sure that I'd included Borge once before, but I can't find it anywhere. So - here's one of his most famous items. Notice how funny, how clean, how inoffensive... There used to be comedians like that - though not many like this.
A year or so ago I bought my Sony e-reader. It's unusual for me - though I love gadgets, I can rarely afford them.
I love it! I've always loved books - the sight, the sound, the smell; but mostly, to be honest, the words. I love to read. The e-reader allows me to carry dozens - hundreds, if I want - of books around with me. It remembers what page I'm on for all of them. I can change the size of the print. I can make notes. It's great.
Lots of books - ancient and modern - are available to read on it. Some of them are free - Project Guttenberg is making available as many books as copyright allows, as quickly as possible - and there are others. All was going well until one friend - AND YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE - bought an Amazon Kindle.
Kindle is Amazon's own version of e-reader, and the two are, apparently and unfortunately, mutually incompatible. You can't buy Kindle books and read them on the Sony, or vice-versa. It does just about everything the e-reader does. It's perhaps not quite as sophisticated - no touch-screen, for example; it's got a keyboard instead. But hey - it downloads books, you don't need to be near a computer to do it (don't ask me - something to do with wi-fi or 3G or something). And get this: there are more - lots more - books available for Kindle than for Sony. And they're cheaper.
For instance: I like thrillers. Lee Child's latest Jack Reacher thriller, 'Worth dying for' was published last week. Amazon are selling it in hardcover for £7.59 (rrp £18.99) and the Kindle version - available immediately - they are selling for £6.64. Cheaper. Waterstones, on the other hand, are selling the hardback for £9.49 (dearer than Amazon - no surprise) and the e-book for (wait for it) £13.58. That's right - I said £13.58. More than twice the price of Kindle.
Worse (and even for a Yorkshireman there are worse things than money. Not many, but some.) There are so many more books available for Kindle it's ridiculous. (I've said that,haven't I?) I'll leave you to do the relevant searches yourself. But try some Christian authors - Packer, Don Carson and the like. Have a look.
So I wrote - politely - to Waterstones (note some of the prices have changed since - but not for the better):
You may not be the right department to raise this with, but I don't know who else to approach.
I bought a Sony e-book reader from my local Waterstones branch around a year ago. It's brilliant in almost every way - but I'm beginning to think Kindle is better...
For example, today, Lee Child's new thriller 'Worth dying for' is released. You have it in hardback for £8.99 ; but you are selling it in its electronic format for £13.58. Amazon's kindle version, though, is £6.64. I know you'll say that 'the publishers set the prices' but, since the ending of the NBA, that's not really the case, as witnessed by the very fact that the hardback version's 'full price' is £18.99.
Even worse when comparing kindle and Sony ebook is the variety of books available. Waterstones list 11 Dick Francis titles in electronic format; Amazon list 51 in kindle... When we look for books other than the most popular thrillers, the situation is even worse. Again, you may say it's the publishers who decide what formats are available and you're listing all those titles that are available. But if the purchase power of Waterstones and WH Smith together cannot influence the publishers, we all need to move to kindle! (Consider: with the almost £7 difference in price for the Lee Child book mentioned above, a mere 17 books would repay the investment. I easily download 17 books in a six-month period.)
Please can you tell me: are there plans afoot to make a greater variety of ebooks available soon? And will Waterstones price them more competitively? Or should I order a Kindle?
Give them credit - they replied. I didn't think they would.
Thank you for your email.
I am sorry to hear that you are unhappy with the price difference between ebooks and other formats online.
There are a number of reasons why the prices are different online but as this is an exclusive product prices may vary, I would like to inform you that in the future there will be reductions and promotions as the item becomes more popular.� We are doing all we can to lower the prices, but unfortunately we are unable to supply you with a time scale as to when this will be done.
I do apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.
Customer Service Team Waterstones.com
Well, thanks Heather. Thanks for taking the time. But - well, it's not really an answer, is it? I hope you don't mind me pointing that out. 'There are a number of reasons...' I'm sure there are. What are they? 'There will be reductions and promotions...' Good. But 'in the future'? Next week? Next year? Next decade? Why are you unable to supply me with a time-scale? Is it because it's so long that I would go and buy a Kindle?
And - why don't you address the question of the difference in number of books that are available? Am I not right in thinking that - without actually saying it - you mean 'Yes, you'd be better off with a Kindle'?
So, dear reader, if you're thinking of an electronic reader - I'd go for a Kindle, myself. In fact, I may get one myself, even if it means kindle-ing my Sony.
Two Christian pro-life protesters have recently been arrested twice by Police in Brighton and await the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service to see if they will face a Criminal Prosecution.
Andy Stephenson 35, married father of two and Katherine Sloane 19, pro-life campaigners were stood outside the BPAS clinic in Brighton on the 27th of July. They raised a banner showing an early aborted embryo near the entrance of the clinic and stood in silent protest. They had been there for about 45 minutes when they were approached by police. The police asked them to take down their pictures otherwise they would be arrested. A discussion followed as Mr Stephenson tried to explain why their actions were lawful. Mr Stephenson and Miss Sloane refused to take down the banner as they believed that they had a lawful right to protest and educate. The police therefore arrested them and took them to Brighton Police station. After having their photographs, fingerprints and DNA taken they were offered a “fixed penalty notice” instead of being prosecuted. They refused the police’s offer and requested a court hearing.
Undeterred by the threat of arrest, Mr Stephenson and Miss Sloane returned to the clinic on the 10th of August and protested in the same manner. Once again, after having stood in silent protest for 45 minutes, they were again approached by police. Mr Stephenson and Miss Sloane refused to take down the banner and so were again arrested and taken to Brighton Police Station and held for 14 hours. This time they were interviewed under caution and were supported by the Christian Legal Centre which has instructed human rights barrister Paul Diamond in the case. They have now been placed on police bail and will return on the 13th of October to hear whether the Crown Prosecution Service have authorised charge for prosecution under the Public Order Act.
Andy Stephenson says “all we were seeking to do was to highlight the dangers of abortion to the users of the BPAS clinic. The women who go to these clinics are simply not told the full story as to what abortion involves and the damage that it causes women. We always stand in complete silence and let the pictures do the talking.”
Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting the case, said: "This is a test case for their democratic right to reveal what abortion really is like. This case raises important questions about whether our society will allow robust and rigorous debate about what remains a highly controversial issue.
In the 21st century it is not appropriate to silence and to censor those who speak out against abortion, even if the manner in which they do so is not how many would choose. Many people in the UK remain horrified at the nature and scale of abortion in this country. There have been 7 million abortions in England and Wales since abortion was legalised in 1967. Obviously there are a range of ways in which people will choose to engage in this important debate depending on what they judge to be the most effective in each situation. However, the freedom to engage and provoke public debate on this matter of life and death must be safeguarded."
'Yet the ideas and practices... are not our real enemies. "We do not wrestle against flesh and blood," insists Paul (Ephesians 6.12). We are not at war with Roman Catholics, liberals, Jehovah's Witnesses or evolutionary scientists. We do not fight adulterers, gays, pop stars or the managers of abortion clinics. We are not in conflict with any man or woman. So who, then, are our enemies? We are "against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.' (Stuart Olyott, on Ephesians 6.12)