Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunset at Ulrome

This is a rather nice - especially since only taken with a mobile phone - photo of sunset over the sea from Ulrome, taken in September this year.  Tomorrow - Monday - we travel up (God willing) to clear the caravan - a caravan we've had since 1988, on a site we've been on since 1980.  Since then - when Elaine was pregnant with Andrew - we've holidayed on the same site three to five weeks a year, every year.  And we've never got bored.

Now, the caravan is old and tired and we just cannot afford a replacement.  If we could, it would make no sense to place it on a site that is at least five hours' drive away.  So, reluctantly, we've taken the decision to sell the caravan - for a pittance - and leave the site behind.

It won't be easy.  It has so many memories, almost all of them happy.  (One or two miserable ones when Elaine was at the lowest point in her first illness.)  Memories of Jo and Andy as children.  Memories of Mum and Dad and a generosity that daily seems to me to be more amazing than I'd ever realised.  Memories of arriving at 'the van' to find the fridge stuffed with chocolate (have you seen my figure?)  It's hard to believe it's over.  And I don't imagine, really, that we'll ever get back there.

And though I try to sit light to 'things', I'm a softy, too.  It will be heart-wrenching to leave.  Thank you, Lord, for more than 30 happy years of holidays.  For Mum and Dad.  For everything.

Sunset at Ulrome - in every conceivable way

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Why I love Piper (and Calvinism)

John Piper is (probably) my favourite living preacher; I love the way exegetical accuracy and exemplary passion are merged in his every message.  And I love his doctrine; for me, too, Calvinism is something that makes me want to sing and (even!) dance.  For me, too - like for Spurgeon before us - 'Calvinism' is but a nickname for pure Biblical Christianity.

One of Piper's big influences though is the Roman Catholic GK Chesterton.  (It's OK, it's OK - even Lloyd-Jones quotes Chesterton).  And Chesterton, it seems, hated Calvinism.  Below is an extract from one of Piper's blog posts - I'd copy the whole thing, but Desiring God doesn't really like that.  You can find the whole thing, though, here.  Why does Piper love Calvinism, and Chesterton hate it?  It's because it's...

Not the Same Calvinism

But how then can Calvinism awaken such joy in me, and such hate in Chesterton? Because they aren’t the same Calvinism. He thinks Calvinism is the opposite of all this happy wonder that we have in common. The Calvinism he hates is part of the rationalism that drives people mad. Exhibit A:
  • "Only one great English poet went mad, Cowper. And he was definitely driven mad by logic, by the ugly and alien logic of predestination. Poetry was not the disease, but the medicine; poetry partly kept him in health. . . . He was damned by John Calvin; he was almost saved by John Gilpin."

No, Mr. Chesterton, William Cowper was not driven mad by Calvinism. He was driven mad by a mental disease that ran in his family for generations, and he was saved by John Newton, perhaps the humblest, happiest Calvinist who ever lived. And both of them saw the wonders of “Amazing Grace” through the eyes of poetry. Yes, that was a healing balm. But the disease was not Calvinism — else John Newton would not have been the happy, healthy, holy friend that he was.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Abigail's fractions

Abigail is 4 - note that, 4; it's relevant.  She's our oldest grandchild and a darling, like the other two.  She's bright as a button and sharp as a razor, and has just started school.  So Rachel, her Mum, decided to do some fractions with her.

Picture the scene, will you.  Mummy and Abigail, book open at a page showing a farmer with his sheep.

Mummy:   Here's the farmer with four sheep.

Abigail:  Yes, Mummy.

Mummy:  Now, if he divides those sheep in two, what has he got?

Abigail:  Four dead sheep, Mummy.

True, true.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Charismatic Crackpot

We had a charismatic crackpot  in church recently.  Not all charismatics are crackpots, any more than all crackpots are charismatic.  Indeed, CJ Mahaney is one of my favourite preachers.

But this man, I fear, was both.  I’d never seen him before, but noticed him in the congregation.  He stayed quiet enough during the meeting, and I went to introduce myself to him afterwards.  Within seconds – literally – he’d told me of the wonderful ministry he had, the hundreds (literally) of amazing miracles God had worked for him in a few short weeks (more, in fact, than in the whole of Bible history) and that he was a direct descendant of a famous preacher (one who, incidentally, had no children…).  He told me he was full of the Spirit.  That he was on fire for God.  That he’d been a Christian for years before he was baptised in the Spirit.

I knew where this was going, so I smiled, and said ‘Well, my understanding of that is different from yours.’  I tried to wish him well and walk away, but he wasn’t having that.   It then went like this:

Him: Have you been baptised in the Spirit?

Me: In the Bible, baptism with the Spirit means conversion; it always does.

Him: No; I was a Christian for twenty years before I was baptised in the Spirit.

Me: No, you weren’t.  In the Bible, baptism in the Spirit is conversion – look at 1 Corinthians 12:12.

Him:  I’m on fire for God, sold out for Jesus.  It’s wonderful; everyone should be.

Me:  Undoubtedly.  But I’m a Bible man…

Him:  So am I.

Me:  … and in the Bible baptism with the Spirit is conversion.

Him:  It’s not; what about ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’  (He’s referring to Acts 19:2)

Me: If you read the passage, they replied ‘We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit…’ and when they were asked what baptism they had received, they said ‘John’s baptism.’  These people weren’t Christians.

Him: They were men of God.

Me: It doesn't say so; whatever they were, they weren’t Christians.  They hadn’t heard of the Holy Spirit and they’d only received John’s baptism, not Christian baptism.

Him: Are you filled with the Spirit?  I‘m on fire, on fire – you should be on fire like me.  I’m on fire, I’m full of the Spirit.

Me: Well, you’re full of something, that’s for sure.  But it seems to me that it’s yourself you’re full of, not the Spirit.

Now you may accuse me of being ungracious.  Possibly.  But I had tried to get away without offence, debate, or rancour; and please note:

  • a) he wasn’t – in practice – evangelical, though he may have claimed to be, and even thought he was.

Like many charismatics (I’ve said this before, haven’t I?) he responded to my ‘the Bible says’ with ‘my experience is…’  When I pushed  him about the Bible (a little more than the above extract suggests) he made one attempt to respond.  Good.  But it wasn’t a good one, and he hadn’t thought it out.  When that was pointed out, he switched from his own experience to my experience…

‘Sola Scriptura’ is the basic principle of evangelicalism.  Experience – true or false – is  never an adequate response to the Bible.

  • b) he wasn’t Spirit-filled, either – though he certainly claimed to be

The Holy Spirit is given to glorify Christ, Jesus said (John 16.14).  But this man spoke of himself, not Christ.  There was no obvious humility in him (in fact, there was obviously no humility) which is a sign of the Spirit’s work (Eph. 4:2).

These people are dangerous.  They mislead the immature and hinder the truth.  There are few greater needs today than for the church of Jesus to leave behind its gullibility.

(See, by the way, Conrad Mbewe for another story – much more interesting than mine.)

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Ian McMillan and National Poetry Day

Ian McMillan the Bard of Barnsley was on Breakfast News today.  TV regular, radio presenter, playwright, poet - his series of stories Richard Matthewman - co-written with the late Martin Wiley - are among the funniest things I've ever heard, and very poignant.  For I grew up in the same area, at the same time.

In fact the thing none of the sources tell you about IM is quite possibly the least important: I was at school with him.  Wath Grammar.  Comprehensive, now.  (It was then, but nobody admitted it.)

Anyway, this morning IM said poetry was important and we should have a go.  Here's my go.

Ian McMillan, they say, is a poet, 
From Barnsley they tell us he came.
Not so though, I know, and I'll tell you,
'Cos Darfield launched him to fame.

Now Darfield's a suburb of Barnsley,
But 'suburb's' too posh of a word,
We don't have suburbs in Yorkshire,
Just towns at the end of the road.

Our hero was grammared in Wath,
Queen of the villages, said Vic- 
Though she'd seen such a pick -
When they'd given it, wi' paint, quite a lick.

There 'George' Brown and BobGod they taught him,
English and history - and such
As would stand in good stead
When his poetry he read
And me - at the top of the class.

(I wish!)

It's hard to be a poet in Yorkshire,
Larkin and Ted Hughes say the same.
They don't care about rhyme
When they come out o't' mine
Just a pie, and a pint, is the game.

So he still lives in Darfield, but travels
To Barnsley, to Hull and beyond.
Down South if he has to - 
It's not rare that he has to - 
But his voice never changes
For Yorkshire he allus remains.

I'll stick to the preaching...