Thursday, May 28, 2015

NIGERIA – Militants kill more than 100 in Benue

More than 100 people are reported to have been killed when Fulani militants attacked villages and displacement camps in Benue state on Sunday.

Release partners say those killed in Ukura, Gafa, Per and Tse-Gusa in the Logo local government area were mostly women, children and elderly people. Many of them had fled to this area from nearby villages to escape earlier violence. 
The attackers, said to be armed with rifles, knives and spears, also burned down many homes in the five-hour attack. Neighbouring villages are now deserted.
Please pray now for our Christian brothers and sisters in Nigeria's middle belt, many of whom live in constant fear of attack. Pray for wisdom and courage for Nigeria's new President, Muhammadu Buhari, who will be officially sworn into office on Friday. Pray that the Government will take firm and decisive action to end the bloodshed in Nigeria.

(Sources: Release partners, The Sun – Nigeria)

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Books read in May 2015

1. Dissolution (The Shardlake Series) by C. J. Sansom

The first in the Shardlake books is the third I have read and it is another great historical detective novel. Shardlake is sent as Cromwell's commissioner to investigate a Sussex monastery where the previous commissioner has been murdered. It is the time when minor monastic houses have been dissolved but dissolution is temporarily stayed due to the rebellion in the north. The monastic life and the progress of reform are well described as is Shardlake's growing dissolution with the behaviour of his master. As in all this series one gets a real feel for the times.

2. British in Northern Nigeria by Robert Heussler

A fascinating account of the British colonial rule of Northern Nigeria from 1900 to independence in 1960. This is a fine history of the British policy of indirect rule through the traditional emirs and chiefs. This is how a very small number of colonial officers ruled millions of Nigerians in a vast undeveloped land. It was a benign partnership, self financing by local taxation.  The barriers to government were a deeply traditional and largely Islamic society with endemic nepotism and corruption. District officers had a largely free hand in how they governed but there was always a huge social gulf between the races and usually a strong insistence on protocol. The author confesses there are few Nigerian sources as to how the British were viewed so the book is written almost exclusively from British sources. My one criticism is that there is almost no reference to Christian missions and their exclusion from areas deemed to be under Muslim rule.  This exclusion had an adverse effect on the development of the North for schools and hospitals that Christian missions could have brought were excluded from Muslim sensibilities. It is also the case that areas that were hardly Muslim were brought under Muslim rule.

3. Sovereign: 3 (The Shardlake Series) by C. J. Sansom

This third Shardlake novel is set in York, Hull and London as our lawyer detective is given a commission by archbishop Cranmer to go to York ahead of a huge royal progress and see to the welfare of a very special prisoner. When a glazier is murdered Shardlake finds papers hidden in his house which relate in some way to a plot against King Henry. But before he can study the papers they are violently stolen and there occur several attempts on Shardlake's life as well as against the special prisoner. The denouement of the story came as a real surprise. One again Sansom really gives the reader a feel for the Tudor times, this time it is set in the days before the fall of Catherine Howard.

4.Revelation (The Shardlake Series) by C. J. Sansom

The fourth Shardlake novel is set in London at the time King Henry is wooing a reluctant Catherine Parr. Our lawyer detective is shocked by the brutal killing of a colleague and having promised the widow to help find the killer he is perplexed when the inquest is adjourned. Cue a summons from Archbishop Cranmer for Shardlake to quietly investigate this and a similar killing. More murders follow and Shardlake realises the killer is imitating the seven bowls of judgement poured out in Revelation 16. At this point I beg to differ from the author who gives a wholly negative view of the last book of the Bible when in fact it is a book of great encouragement to suffering Christians. But there are many wild interpretations like that of the killer. Shardlake himself has moved away form being a reformer . Now he seems a sceptic as to reform and the only reformer painted in a good light is Cranmer.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Books read in April 2015

1. The 1662 Diary of Philip Henry - edited by Raymond Brown

This most important year of Philip Henry's diary has never before been published. It is fascinating to read the day by day activities of a Puritan minister who was among those ejected from the Church of England in this its most tragic year. Henry himself writes it was the worst year since the death of young Edward IV.  It was also the year of the birth of Henry's son, Matthew,  later the author of the famous commentary.  Henry had lost his pastoral charge in 1661. Here are details of mundane daily life, especially financial. He seems to have travelled a lot in the locality. He did not enjoy good relations with his conformist father but had much fellowship with those who were suffering under Restoration enforced conformity. Here you can read their objections as to what the Book of Common Prayer required. Not all were of one mind. Henry was criticised for allowing his son to be given the sign of the cross at baptism. All in all a fascinating glimpse into the fire of a suffering saint in 1662.

2. Evangelical Holiness: And Other Addresses by Iain H. Murray 

I have always enjoyed Murray's writing and this is no exception. I found it a spiritual tonic and a challenge to complacency. The title chapter is an address at the 2010 Keswick Convention and sets the spiritual tone of the whole book. The chapter, 'The Attack on the Bible' gives the history of the critical rejection of biblical authority and its sad consequences. This leads naturally to the chapter on Apostasy. The next subject is controversy and this is handled with real sensitivity, especially withe reference to John Newton as a model controversialist. The final chapter is on the continuing obligation of the fourth commandment. For me this last chapter does prompt some questions the author does not address like how could first century slaves keep the sabbath and why the differences in the practical observation of the command between English speaking Christians and their Continental brethren.

3.  The Misery of Job and the Mercy of God by John Piper 

An unusual format for a book about Job, poetry with beautiful photography. Of course poetry is fitting for that is how most of the book of Job is written. I think the author assumes that his readers have read the biblical story for he starts straight in with Job, not the conflict in heaven. Job's misery is well portrayed. His comforters' counsel is more briefly given but we get the force of Job's frustration with them. Some license is taken at the end but the concluding line sum up the great practical lesson of Job for sufferers, "It won't be long before the rod becomes the tender kiss of God." This has to be the Christian's hope in all adversity.

4. Christian World of the Middle Ages by Bernard Hamilton

History is usually taught from an ethnocentric perspective and church history is no exception. I learned a little about the early church, mainly the great councils that defined trinitarian orthodoxy, but real church history was from the Reformation onwards and was exclusively Western. This book is the antidote. Here are chapters on the church before the era of Reformation in the west, Byzantine lands, the Levant and Caucasus, Africa and Asia. This is a most informative eye opener as to the extent of the spread of Christianity from Sudan to China. As well as the churches centred on Rome and Byzantium we have the Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Syrian and Chaldean. From the establishment of churches in Georgia to amazing structures hewn from solid rock in Ethiopia and how Christianity could spread and flourish under the Mongols there are so many new things to learn. 

5. The Empty Throne (The Warrior Chronicles, Book 8) by Bernard Cornwell 

I have read all of this series and wonder when Cornwell will have his hero retake his castle and inheritance. Is he keeping the series going as a steady earner for which he needs little new historical research? Once again we have a story of bloody battles, this time in Mercia and Wales. Again we have the pagan hero in lands becoming increasingly Christian. For me it is time to draw the series to a fitting conclusion.

6. The Bombmaker by Stephen Leather

This is the first of Leather's thrillers that I have read and it will not be the last. A fast moving page turner set in Hong Kong, Ireland and England with kidnap, murder and planned mass destruction. I like the little twist at the end too.

7. Down Under by Bill Bryson

A friend who has visited Australia put me off this book saying it was not one of Bryson's best. I have to disagree. It is good enough to make me want to visit. Bryson is for me the best of travel writers and a humorist who can make one laugh our loud.This is a fascinating account of Australian history, geography, flora and fauna. Few things are left out, notably nothing on religion and little on sport apart from a truly awful parody of a cricket commentary. With the years he lived in Yorkshire Bryson should have learned to appreciate the world's finest game. But here is a great account of the vastness of Australia and its unique diversity. The book would be improved by an index and some photographs. I think a picture is needed at least for Uluru.

8. The Plausibility Problem by Ed Shaw 

This is simply the best book on sexuality that I have ever read. The author is a same sex attracted man arguing that for the church to counsel those with same sex attraction just to say no is a response that lacks plausibility today. He goes on the argue why a life long commitment to celibacy is plausible and good by confronting nine popular missteps the contemporary church and society have taken. First, your identity is your sexuality. No, as a Christian your identity is a new person in Christ. Second, a family is Mum, Dad and 2.4 children. No, your family is brothers and sisters in Christ. Third, if you are born gay it can't be wrong to be gay. No, this ignores the original sin with which all are born.  There are six more wrong arguments countered including, celibacy is bad for you. This and the chapter on suffering are equally relevant for all singles. My only criticism of the book is that the title may make one think it is exclusively about homosexuality when in fact it is about us all being sexual beings in need of the Holy Spirit's transforming power. Impossible to recommend too highly. Easy to read, challenging, compassionate and practical.

9. Pop Goes the Weasel by M J Arlidge

First rate detective murder thriller set in Southampton. Police with very human frailties and failings. A world of prostitution and violence. Characters well drawn. Plenty of mystery and twists in the plot. A gripping read.

10. Dead Man's Time (Roy Grace series Book 9) byPeter James

Grace, senior Brighton detective tackles robbery, violence and murder with a puzzle from the past. Set in Spain and New York as well as Brighton.

11. Want You Dead (Roy Grace series Book 10)  by Peter James

A man spurned takes his revenge with murder and arson. It is a gripping thriller but one questions the likelihood of some of the tale. Could one bolt from a crossbow kill the pilot of a helicopter?


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Saturday, April 04, 2015

April 4: The Preaching of John Knox

by archivist
A Full Defense of his Opinions
knoxJohn02In February 1549, after an imprisonment of 19 months, Knox obtained his release from the French galleys. Since he probably obtained his freedom due to the intercession of King Edward VI or the English government (they had been negotiating for the release of English and Scottish protestant prisoners in exchange for French prisoners), he came to London, and was favorably received by Archbishop Cranmer and the lords of council. He remained in England for five years, during which time he was first appointed preacher to Berwick, then to Newcastle.
At Berwick, where he labored for two years, he preached with his characteristic fervor and zeal, exposing the errors of Romanism with unsparing severity. Although Protestantism was the official position of the Church of England since the reign of Henry VIII, there were many loyal Roman Catholics (papists), even in the high ranks of the clergy. The bishop of John Knox's diocese, Dr. Cuthbert Tunstall, was an avid Catholic. Knox was accused of asserting that the sacrifice of the Mass is idolatrous, and was cited to appear before the bishop to give an account of his preaching. On April 4, 1550, Knox entered into a full defense of his opinions, and with the utmost boldness proceeded to argue that the mass is a superstitious and idolatrous substitute for the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. (vol. 3 of History 54,-56). The bishop did not venture to pronounce any ecclesiastical censure.
The fame of the preacher was only extended by this feeble attempt to restrain his boldness. From a manuscript discovered in the 1870's titled, "The practice of the Lord's Supper used in Berwick by John Knox, 1550," we now know that the very beginning of Puritan practice in the Church of England in the administration of the Lord's Supper is to be found in the practice followed by Knox at Berwick, inasmuch as he substituted common bread for the bread wafers, and gave the first example of substituting sitting instead of kneeling in the receiving of communion.
Words to Live By:
We Presbyterians owe much to John Knox and we would profit greatly from taking up a fresh study of his life and writings. 2014 was the 500th anniversary of his birth, and so we had many posts last year on facets of his ministry. In his time, he stood resolutely for the Scriptures and was greatly blessed of God to bring about real change in his nation. Even now God has placed among us those who can and are speaking with bold testimony to the eternal truths of the Gospel. We need not name them. We cannot name them all. But we can all remember to pray for those whom the Lord will use for His glory in these trying times. May the Lord give us strong voices to faithfully declare His Word.
Psalm 20
The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble;
the name of the God of Jacob defend thee;
Send thee help from the sanctuary,
and strengthen thee out of Zion;
Remember all thy offerings,
and accept thy burnt sacrifice; Selah.
Grant thee according to thine own heart,
and fulfil all thy counsel.
We will rejoice in thy salvation,
and in the name of our God we will set up our banners:
the Lord fulfil all thy petitions.
Now know I that the Lord saveth his anointed;
he will hear him from his holy heaven
with the saving strength of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots, and some in horses:
but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought down and fallen:
but we are risen, and stand upright.
Save, Lord:
let the king hear us when we call

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Thursday, April 02, 2015

April 2: The First to Suffer in the Three Kingdoms


by archivist
"Of Whom the World Was Not Worthy"
The day is lost to history, even church history. No one, no book has it listed down. But we know the month and the year. It was April in 1661 in Ulster, or Northern Ireland.
On some day of that month of April then, in the year of 1661, faithful and godly Presbyterian ministers in what we know as Northern Ireland, or Ulster, were ejected from their pulpits, their manses,  and their salaries by the Church of England. They were the first Presbyterian  ministers to suffer this ejection in the three kingdoms of Northern Ireland, England, and Scotland. Why were they thrown out first? Some have answered that the old form of church government to say nothing of worship were still the norm in Ulster. It was just a matter of time before the Anglican church would lay down the law, so to speak, and eject Presbyterian ministers from its pulpits. In both England and Scotland, that church form and worship had been abolished by the parliament, with even the Common book of prayer replaced, at least for a time.
But on one day in April, 1661, close to seventy Presbyterian ministers were ordered to obey the crown of England, or leave their pulpits. There was no gratitude for what they had accomplished for the Savior in previous years. In many cases, they and their Scottish followers had come into the area, rework the barren fields into plots of industry and farming, repair the churches which had fallen into disrepair from years of neglect, and even revive the people of the land to the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. But with all this spiritual success, the thought of Presbyterian doctrine and government being preached and lived in Ulster didn't set right with the Anglican folks. So these faithful ministers were banned from five separate Presbyteries and their local churches, and their parishes. Only seven Presbyterian ministers conformed to prelacy and kept their pulpits and their parishes, including their incomes.
It was a sad day for the Presbyterian church in Ireland.
Words to Live By:
The names of those who were ejected from Ulster's churches and presbyteries are still recorded in the record books of the Presbyterian Church.  It is also recorded in the history books the names of these few ministers who decided to accept the temporary favors of the Church of England. Of far more importance of course is that fact that our names are recorded in heaven for faithfulness to God's truth. Let us ever seek to please Him first and foremost. 

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Reformation Timetable

My notes for an adult Sunday School class at our church on 15 March 2015
1483 b Martin Luther
1486  b Arthur, Prince of Wales
1489 b Cranmer
1491 b Henry Tudor, Ignatius Loyola
1501 m Arthur and Catherine of Aragon b1485
1502 d Arthur
1503 Henry betrothed to Catherine, Wm Warham last pre-ref A o Cant..
1505 b Knox. Luther becomes monk.
1507 Luther ordained
1508 ML at Univ Wittenberg
1509 Henry king and marries Catherine b Calvin. Erasmus at Cambridge
1512 Luther DD
1514 Wolsey b1473 A of York.
1515 Wolsey cardinal and Lord Chancellor
1516 b Mary Erasmus Greek NT. More Utopia
1517 95 Theses
1518 Diet of Augsburg ML will not recant
1519 ML in disputation at Leipzig questions papal authority. Zwingli b 1484 starts Zurich reformation
1520 Loe X excommunicates ML, declared heretic, burns papal bull.
1521 Defender of the faith. ML banned from HR Empire at Diet of Worms. Starts Bible translation hidden in Wartburg.
1522 ML in Wittenberg publishes NT
1524 Mass banned Zurich
1525 ML marries Katherine b1499. Tyndale NT printed Worms
1528 Henry publicly talks of Divorce. Reformation starts Scotland with Patrick Hamilton b1504 executed
1529 Wolsey falls. More chancellor. Vienna besieged. ML and UZ dispute eucharist at Marburg
1530 Melanchthon prepares Confession of Augsburg, signed by Protestant princes
1531 Henry Supreme Head of C of E. UZ dies in battle.
1533 H m secretly to Anne Boleyn b 1501,  b Elizabeth. Cranmer Archbishop and declares 1st marriage null, Anne crowned queen. Henry excommunicated by pope.
1534 Act of Supremacy, Treasons Act .German OT. Jesuits founded
1535 All clergy must subscribe. More beheaded. Reports in of church wealth. Visitation of monasteries. JC Basel.
1536 d Catherine. Anne executed. m Jane Seymour b 1508  Pilgrimage of Grace. Cromwell b1485 Lord Privy Seal. First Suppression Act and first suppressions, 376 of them. Continue 4 years. JC Geneva. Authority of pope void in England. Calvin’s Institutes. Tyndale burned.
1537 P o Grace suppressed. b Edward d Jane
1538 JC to Strasbourg. Relics and shrines like Becket’s destroyed in southern England.
1540 m Anne of Cleves. b 1515 Annulled by parliament. m Catherine Howard b 1521 Cromwell beheaded
1541 JC Geneva
1542 Catherine H beheaded. Paul III stars Inquisition
1543 m Catherine Parr b1512 First burnings in Spain. Servetus burned in Geneva
1545 Council of Trent to 1564
1546 d Henry, ML
1549 Conformity to BCP required
1552 Second BCP
1553 d Edward and Lady Jane Grey 1554
1555 Knox to Scotland from Geneva
1156 Cranmer burned. Cardinal Pole Canterbury
1558 d Mary, JN First Blast
1559 New BCP

1564 JC dies

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More sad news from Nigeria

On Saturday/Sunday night gunmen entered the house of a retired Police officer, a Mr Jonathan in Barakin Ladi in Plateau St. killing 7 of the family.  Only a little girl survived but had a gun shot in her leg so was taken to hospital.  The motive was not clear.  Then on Monday evening a Fulani man tried to walk through a mob who were shouting but was lynched,  In reprisal a Moslem Hausa man invited a motor mechanic, a Berom man, to his house to repair his motor cycle.  He and two other Berom men were later found dead.  it was a sad tit for tat killing but it shows how much society is like a tinder box.

Joint Forces  announced that they had taken back the town of Damasak in Borno St quite near the northern border with Niger.Coalition forces claim they have retaken over 30 towns from Boko Haram control.  

However, today, Tuesday 10, another suicide bomber killed himself and 17 others in Monday Market in Maiduguri.

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Monday, March 09, 2015

Nigeria latest

You may have heard that several bombs went off in Maiduguri on Friday when 50 or more people were killed and many injured.  Having tried unsuccessfully  to overrun the city by frontal attack in January, the BH are now attacking people within the city and so creating terrible fear in everyone.  Chadian, Cameroonian and Niger forces are working with the Nigerian army but may confine themselves to the Lake Chad and border areas.  One of our friends has said the Chadians especially see BH as the enemy and are out to destroy them, whereas their own Nigerian forces can easily become compromised.  Now that BH have declared their allegiance to ISIS and the Caliphate it may make the Nigerian Government more determined to overcome them, but it will be very difficult with so many sympathisers within society.

Sadly the attacks by Fulani extremists have continued in Plateau State with Sho being attacked on Saturday.  Security forces arrived too late, but they arrested two men accusing them as suspects but that caused a riot as the villagers said they were trying to defend the village.  A village in Taraba State south of Yola/Numan was attacked on Friday.  A riot ensued at a video viewing centre resulting in at least two people being killed and many houses set on fire.  Another village in Borno near Benishek was attacked Thursday/Friday night.

With the Presidential election now less than three weeks away (March 28) let us continue to pray for the country and for Christians in particular that they will know how to vote - and that there will be an end to violence both before and after the Election.

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Thursday, March 05, 2015

Books read in March 2015

1. Reformation : Europe's House Divided 1490-1700 by Diarmaid MacCulloch

A most detailed and comprehensive work on the history and theology of both the Reformation and the Counter-reformation response. It tales on all of Europe though I found it weak on the 17th century in what the author calls the Atlantic Isles. ( Is this some new political correctness to avoid Ireland being part of the British Isles?) Post Restoration history in both England and Scotland seems too brief. There seems to be little on the Test Acts and nothing on the various Covenants nor the Covenanters. But one is certainly given a good theological understanding of the diversity between various Reformers. The author is no fan of John Calvin. Does this explain his omission of how Calvin influenced capitalism when he reformed the the traditional understanding of usury?

2. Best Kept Secret: 3 (The Clifton Chronicles) by Jeffrey Archer

I enjoy Archer and have read most of his work including the previous two books in this series. However I think he has become rather predictable and formulaic here. I found the main big story far fetched. Archer certainly shows his familiarity with elections and publishing but I think the prolonged bitter hatred of two vindictive characters here was rather over the top. Perhaps I have too soft a view of human nature.

3. The Swallows Of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra

Set in Taliban controlled Kabul and written in 2002 when these extremists controlled the city. I confess I do not understand the link between book and title and was surprised to find the author is in fact an Algerian man. But he seems well informed of the horror that was Kabul at the time. The story is well written but shocking in its horror, so bad in fact that the subject matter means I cannot give it five stars. Do not expect a happy ending.

4. Edge of Eternity (The Century Trilogy) by Ken Follett 

I have enjoyed all three volumes in this series but this one has to be an out and out left wing piece of historical fiction. The causes beloved of the left are applauded and no leader from the American right is worthy of approbation. It also seems to have been written for an American market. I recall only two passing references to British prime ministers and the only British politics seems to be the Sexual Offences Act decriminalising male homosexual acts. But some of the big events, 1961 to 1989 are covered through the lives of families in USA, USSR and East Germany. A long book. A large canvas and a good read if you do not mind the story coming from left field, liberal left that is not communist.

5. Jesus, Jihad, and Peace: A Prophetic Vision for the Middle East by Michael Youssef

The author, a Christian from Egypt, is well qualified to write on Islam and Christianity. He pulls no punches showing Islam does not mean peace but submission, submission to Allah who is not the same in his attributes as God worshipped by Christians. The West needs to wake up to the goal of the minority of Muslims, Salafist/Wahabbis who are setting the agenda of a universal caliphate, world domination. The majority of Muslims do not support their methods but remain silent out of fear. It reads all too like the Republicans in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, a comparison the author does not make for he lives in USA and his book is aimed at an American readership. I was hesitant when the cover says. 'What Bible prophecy says about world events'. But this is a balanced approach with my only criticism that he does not relate that the last days started at Pentecost and the first part of Matthew 24 is about AD70. There is helpful contrast between the beliefs and methods of Islam and Christianity as well as a clear presentation of the Christian gospel.

6. LONDON: The Information Capital: 100 maps and graphics that will change how you view the city by James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti

From fascinating serious information about London to the most trivial of trivia it is all here. Maps and charts to pour over and fascinate. This book represents the fruit of endless information gathering only possible in the electronic age. Read through it, dip into it, on the coffee table or for reference, this is a fun book.

7. Lila by Marilynne Robinson

The third novel in the Gilead books is set before the second one, Home and I was pleased to have read Home first as some references to the Boughton family and their black sheep son would have been hard to understand without Home. Lila was rescued by an old drifter woman, Doll and throughout the book Lila thinks back to he time with Doll and a group of drifters in dust bowl America. After Doll dies Lila is employed in a St Louis whorehouse then a hotel before she comes to Gilead where after living in an abandoned shack she is befriended by the old widower, Rev Ames and so begins a strange, tender love story. They marry but she can never tell him the details of her past. There is much here of beauty in love and kindness. There is exploration of themes dealing with eternity and hell also the meaning of baptism. Lila reads a lot from Ezekiel, Ames quotes Calvin, not what one finds in modern novels. Writing on sexual matters without explicit detail is refreshing. Can we look forward to more from this small Iowa town? How will the Ames boy grow up?

8. Old Thunder: A Life of Hilaire Belloc by Joseph Pearce

Belloc seems to be little remembered today except as a writer of comic verse. This biography shows how he was a foremost apologist for the Christian faith in the first half of the 20th century alongside his friend G K Chesterton. His Christianity though was decidedly Roman Catholic and he was influential in leading many of his friends, well known names, into that church. It was therefore amusing to read that he had a son who alienated from his father called an adopted child Martin Luther to irritate Belloc. Belloc's much loved wife died in her forties and he lost his eldest and youngest sons in the two World Wars so he was a man acquainted with grief. He was judged the finest orator of his  day and had a huge and varied literary output. He said he only wrote because he needed the money but one of his passions was to retell English history without what he regarded as its innate Protestant bias. He was a larger than life character loving beer, wine, Sussex, his native France, travel and sailing, but above all his Church.

9. Dark Fire (The Shardlake Series) by C. J. Sansom 

This is the first Shardlake story I have read and it will not be the last. I enjoy historical fiction and detective stories and here you have both. In fact there are two stories of detection in this volume. The author does make Tudor London come alive. His characters are well drawn. Plenty of mystery and excitement .Knowing that Cromwell is to fall hangs like a sword of Damocles over the story. I look forward to more about Shardlake.

10, Heartstone (Matthew Shardlake 5) by C. J. Sansom

Fifth in the Shardlake series but the second one I have read. Once again much detail as to Tudor life. Here one learns about wardship, travel, the army, archery, the threatened French invasion, warships and the sinking of the Mary Rose. Once again Shardlake has two mysteries to solve putting his own life at risk. A long story but a good read.

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Nigeria update

Sadly the troubles continue with a vengeance.  Boko Haram are still at large and active, there have been more Fulani attacks on Plateau villages and now sectarian/political killings are adding to the growing death toll.  Almost every day we get news from our source of another atrocity.

11/2/15 An incident in the Muslim area of Jos where a taxi knocked over a Christian motor cyclist quickly turned into a riot where a number of Christian homes were attacked and set on fire.  This incident shows that towns and cities like Jos are a tinder box where the slightest incident can spark off a riot, either by muslims or non muslims, or one political group against another.

15/2 a female suicide bomber killed herself and 7 others, injuring 10 more in Damaturu, capital of Yobe State.

15/2 gunmen killed the LGA Chairman of the Action Peoples Congress (APC - the main contender in opposition to Goodluck Jonathan of PDP) in Barakin Ladi in Plateau State.  His wife was also shot but survived and is receiving treatment in hospital.  Our source made the comment that a number of supporters of PDP have switched their allegiance to APC  

16/2 The Nigerian Army said they’d recaptured the town of Monguno in Borno and Baga and Baga Dorowa on the edge of Lake Chad have been re-taken from BH..

17/2 Boko Haram attacked an army post inside the Cameroon border.

17/2  Fulani militants attacked Mongul village near Kantoma in Mangu LGA Plateau State and around Lambal near Gana Ropp in B/Ladi LGA.  Several were killed and houses destroyed.  No villager right across the Plateau feels safe.

18/2  Fulani militants attacked Kassa community in B/Ladi killing a man and his wife and injuring 3 others.

19/2  A ‘space bus’ (not sure what this is but it may be one used for political campaigning) was found burnt out with 5 bodies inside.  That was near the Bisichi junction on Jos/BLadi road.

21/2 B Haram attacked Gatamwarwa and 2 other villages in Chibok area, Borno State.  As the Nigerian Army gets control of the northern part of Borno so BH are terrorising the southern part.  Over 30 people are said to have been killed, churches razed and houses destroyed.

22/2 A bomb blast was reported at the GSM market in Potiskum today, the second attack on this market.  Casualties are not known yet.

This is the most critical time for Nigeria as the country moves towards the Presidential election on March 28.  Urgent prayer is needed. 

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Thursday, February 05, 2015

Puritan Names

Most of these are courtesy of the 1888 book by Charles Bardsley, Curiosities of Puritan Nomenclature.
20 Puritan Names That Are Utterly Strange
  1. Dancell-Dallphebo-Mark-Anthony-Gallery-Cesar. 
  2. Praise-God. 
  3. If-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned. 
  4. Fear-God. 
  5. Job-raked-out-of-the-ashes
  6. Has-descendents
  7. Wrestling
  8. Fight-the-good-fight-of-faith
  9. Fly-fornication
  10. Jesus-Christ-came-into-the-world- to-save. 
  11. Thanks
  12. What-God-will
  13. Joy-in-sorrow. 
  14. Remember
  15. Fear-not. 
  16. Experience
  17. Anger
  18. Abuse-not
  19. Die-Well.
  20. Continent. 
12 of the Cruelest Puritan 
  1. Humiliation. 
  2. Fly-debate
  3. No-merit. 
  4. Helpless
  5. Reformation
  6. Abstinence
  7. More-triale
  8. Handmaid
  9. Obedience
  10. Forsaken
  11. Sorry-for-sin. 
  12. Lament
12 Strangely Pleasant Puritan Names
  1. Silence
  2. Creedence
  3. Dust
  4. Diffidence
  5. Desire. 
  6. Make-peace. 
  7. Ashes
  8. Tace. 
  9. Placidia
  10. Kill-sin. 
  11. Freegift
  12. Vanity
10 of the Sweetest Puritan Names
  1. Jolly
  2. Liberty. 
  3. Tenacious
  4. Happy
  5. Felicity. 
  6. Hope. 
  7. Prudence. 
  8. Amity. 
  9. Verity. 
  10. Trinity. 

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Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Books read in February 2015

1. Pioneering for Christ in the Sudan  by Johanna Veenstra

Johanna Veenstra arrived in Nigeria in 1920, aged 25, to work with the Sudan United Mission. Her missionary career was a mere 13 years, but that was much longer than many of her contemporaries. This book was written during her second home leave. She pioneered a work among a cannibal tribe 75 miles from Ibi on the Benue. Her work was evangelistic, medical and educational. The land and people were primitive. Land transport was on foot or bicycle. Big game abounded. Johanna was the first missionary to Nigeria from the Christian Reformed Church of North America. A very brave, spiritual woman. Converts came slowly. The mission required at least two years between profession of faith and baptism. Polygamy posed huge problems. The church, not the missionaries chose to be teetotal. A fascinating book about a much loved saint. She was a giant pioneer missionary.

2. Expendable Mary Slessor by James Buchan

From mill girl in the slums of Dundee to a 49 year missionary career in and near Calabar, this was one very remarkable woman. She went alone to a very violent inland tribe, going where no man, black or white would dare go. She preceded Pax Britanica and brought Pax Mary Slessor by the grace of God and sheer bravery. 'Courage is only the conquering of fear by faith' she said. She was eventually made British vice-consul to this tribe, the first such appointment of a woman in all the British Empire. She rescued hundreds of twins from death and intervened to protect many people from brutal native punishments. She ate only local food supplemented by tea. She would go barefoot, bareheaded and with skimpy dress which scandalised other Europeans. She became fluent in the Efik tongue, expert on African life and customs. She educated and healed many. There was no-one like her. In her later years, chronically ill, she received widespread fame and her funeral in Calabar was like a state occasion. She had loved and respected Africans giving her health and life for them.

3. Nigerian harvest;: A Reformed witness to Jesus Christ in Nigeria, West Africa, in the twentieth century, including a detailed history of the ... in the Benue Province from 1940 to 1970 by Edgar H Smith

The author, a British missionary seconded to the mission of the Christian Reformed Church of North America, wrote this comprehensive history of the work of CRC missionaries in Nigeria. At times there is a most interesting narrative of pioneer mission and church development but a lot of the book is much less interesting, detailing the CRC agreeing to start official work in Nigeria following several of its members working there for the Sudan United Mission. Relations between CRC and SUM are recorded at length as well as relations with the Dutch Reformed Church Mission from South Africa. The CRC was progressively taking over DRCM work when all South African work was forced to transfer in the early sixties due to South Africa's politics. The CRC as a result finished up working with two different Nigerian denominations though they are in close fellowship together. An interesting and detailed account of church planting and other mission work in central Nigeria.

4. Ealing: A Concise History by Jonathan Oates and  Peter Hounsell 

It does what it says in the title. Ealing though is not the present London borough but the area defined by W5 and W13 postal districts.. It recounts the history from before 1601 to the present day. It is fairly comprehensive and one does get a good feel for the growth of Ealing.

5. Samira and Samir: The Heartrending Story of Love and Oppression in Afghanistan by Siba Shakib

I have often read factual accounts and judged them stranger than fiction. Here is what purports to be a true story which I find incredible. I confess that what I know of Afghanistan concerns urban life in and around Kabul. This is life among the Hazaras of the mountains. I know the Hazaras are despised for they are Shi'as. The Islam here seems very syncretistic and impure. I found the style of writing difficult. Why the name avoidance with some people given descriptions not names? All in all I found this book hard going and too far fetched.

6. Born Under a Million Shadows by Andrea Busfield

Written from the viewpoint of a ten year old Afghan boy this novel is set in pot-taliban Afghanistan. The boy's father and brother have been killed and his sister abducted by the Taliban. His mother is saved from a life of poverty by being employed in the Kabul home of three single expatriates. Afghan life is well portrayed as is the boy's shock at the expatriates' lifestyles. One expat has fallen for a very wealthy Afghan. Is he a drug lord? A lot of the book is a romantic novel concerning these two disparate people. This is a story with happy endings. Perhaps that is where its Afghan realism falls short.

7. Afghanistan, Where God Only Comes To Weep by Siba Shakib 

Another horrific testimony from the strife of Afghanistan. This appears to be a true story, the biography of an Afghan woman through the end of the monarchy, the Russian invasion and the war to repel them, the Muhjadeen's civil war and the rule of the Taliban. The scene shifts from rural ares to Kabul then escape to a refugee camp on the border into Pakistan. After rape, murder and arson in the camp the family find shelter with Hazaras in the Hindu Kush mountains. Then after being in a opium growing village they move to Iran. At first Iran is good for Afghans but then it turns unfriendly so the family go back to an Afghanistan refigee camp. From there it is Isfahan than Kabul and finally to family members fighting with the Northern Alliance against the Taliban. On the way there are severe injuries, prison, suicide attempt, mines and opium addiction. Not a happy story but that sadly is the life in Afghanistan.

8. The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory 

The Tudor story from the time of Arthur, Henry VII's eldest son through to the death of Thomas Cromwell told from the perspective of Margaret Plantaganet, loyal friend of Catherine of Aragon and companion to her daughter Mary. This is very much history from a Roman Catholic perspective. Henry VIII is shown falling from his people's favoured prince to an obese, unpredictable tyrant. Cromwell is a ruthless destroyer of the old order. There are no good words for Reformation. The fall of Margaret and her family comes about from their involvement with her son Reginald, who sponsored by the king to be a learned scholar, denounces his patron's divorce and alienation from Rome. He later became Mary Tudor's archbishop of Canterbury.

9. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I found this to be an account of rather unattractive people. Her Nigerian immigrants are ready to try and cheat the systems to make it in USA or England. There is more detail about life in USA for that is where the author studied. The preoccupation with race is frankly boring, but then I am white. But to go on about race in America and never touch on tribalism in Nigeria is unbalanced. Interestingly their is little about race in England, nothing about Nigerian /Caribbean tensions. Her rich Lagosians are an unattractive crowd. Gullible Nigerian Christianity is well portrayed. I am thankful that the Nigerians I know show better morality than is portrayed here.

10.  Islam Today: A Short Introduction to the Muslim World by Akbar S. Ahmed 

My copy is an earlier edition published in 1999 so it is dated. It is helpful with history, beliefs and practice of Islam and shows how diverse it is yet I cannot help think the author is giving a favourable, public relations view of Islam. When he writes on Mohammed's wives he omits his child bride. When he writes on marriage he tells us polygamy is almost unknown among his people. This may be so in SE Asia but in Sub-saharan Africa, Islam promotes Islamic polygamy as authentically African. Post 9/11 the world is a different place and relations between the West and Islam are much changed. So too is the behaviour of Muslim minorities in the West. To cite the fifty or so Muslims in Stornoway as a paragon of integrated and peaceful living is rather laughable. Stormoway itself is a cultural anomaly in godless Europe.

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February 3: David Brainerd

by davidtmyers
The Author and Finisher of Our Faith
We turn now to the devotional diary of David Brainerd, the Presbyterian missionary of the middle eighteenth century.  What could account for the zeal which this early missionary showed as he traveled, not by modern conveyance but on  horseback? His travels did not take him by established thoroughfares, but rather on frontier trails through forests and across swollen rivers.  These areas were safe, when you stop to think of it, as hostile forces and wild animals were sure to block his way.  What could prompt an individual to undertake such an arduous journey?
As we look at his diary for February 3, 1744,we ascertain at least several strong reasons for his constant ministry.  Read his words and see if you can glean the answer.  He wrote:
“Enjoyed more freedom and comfort than of late; was engaged in meditation upon the different whispers of the various powers and affections of a pious mind exercised with a great variety of dispensations, and could not but write, as well as meditate on so entertaining a subject.  I hope the Lord gave me some true sense of divine things this day, but alas, how great and pressing are the remains of indwelling corruption!  I am now more sensible than ever, that God alone is ‘the author and finisher of faith,’ i.e. that the whole and every part of sanctification, and every good word, works, or thought, found in me, is the effect of his power and grace, that ‘without him I can do nothing,’ in the strictest sense, and that ‘he works in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure,’ and from no other motives.  Oh! how amazing it is that people can talk so much about men’s power and goodness, when if God did not hold us back every moment, we should be devils incarnate! This is my bitter experience, for several days last past, and has abundantly taught me concerning myself.”
If you carefully meditate on this diary entry, you cannot help but see the place of Scripture permeating his thoughts.  He quotes portions of Hebrews 12:2John 15:5, and Philippians 2:13 in this section.  In other words,  he lived and breathed Scripture!
David Brainerd also had a practical understanding of the work of sanctification in his soul, and understood the remnants of sin within himself.  Thus, with a true sense of himself, but more importantly, a true understanding of his God, he could move forward each day to do the work of evangelism and discipleship among the native population to whom God had called him.
Words to Live By: “How amazing it is that people can talk so much about men’s power and goodness, when if God did not hold us back every moment, we should be devil’s  incarnate.” — David Brainerd

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Sunday, February 01, 2015

Maiduguri today

A correspondent alerted us to another attack being made on Maiduguri this morning.  It started around 3am.  He also said that female soldiers were being evacuated which is alarming.  

BBC World - Africa service also carried the news of the attack.

Then during church this morning around 11.30 a text came from M’guri to say bombing, rockets and shooting was going on, and he said the vibrations were felt in the church building as they worshipped.  It also said the attack was launched from the Molai side of the city and that stray bullets had killed several people in their homes.
Another report said the city was attacked on four sides.

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Friday, January 30, 2015

January 30: “We Don’t Have Forever,” by Dr. Francis Schaeffer (198

by archivist
This day, January 30, marks the birth of Francis August Schaeffer, in 1912.
schaeffer02Dr. Schaeffer began his ministry with the Bible Presbyterian Church, was later a minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, and when that denomination was received into the PCA, spent his final few years, from 1982 until his death in 1984, affiliated with the PCA. Dr. Schaeffer was the featured speaker at the 1980 "Consultation on Presbyterian Alternatives" sponsored by the Presbyterian Church in America. His counsel, excerpted here from the full transcript of his Pittsburgh messages, was heard by participants from several Presbyterian communionsAdmittedly another long post today, but please save it to read tomorrow if you don't have time today.

"We Don't Have Forever."

BY DR. FRANCIS A. SCHAEFFER (1980; REPRINTED FROM THE PCA MESSENGER)
Two biblical principles must be practiced simultaneously, at each step of the way, if we are to be really Bible-believing Christians.  One is the principle of the practice of the purity of the visible church.  The other is the principle of an observable love among all true Christians.
Those of us who left the old Presbyterian Church USA (the "Northern" Church) 44 years ago made mistakes which marked the movement for years to come.  The second principle often was not practiced. In particular we often failed to manifest an observable love for the fellow believers who stayed in that denomination when others of us left.
Things were said which are very difficult to forget even more than 40 years later.  The periodicals of those who left tended to spend more time attacking the real Christians who stayed in the old denomination than in dealing with the liberals.  Those who came out at times refused to pray with those who had not come out.  Many who left totally broke off all forms of fellowship with true brothers in Christ who did not come out.
What was destroyed was Christ's command to love each other.  And what was left was often a turning inward, a self-righteousness, a hardness, and, too often, a feeling that withdrawal had made those who came out so right that anything they did could be excused.
Further, having learned these bad habits, they later treated each other badly when the new groups had minor differences among themselves.
We cannot stress both of the principles simultaneously in the flesh.  Sometimes we stress purity without love.  Or we can stress love without purity.  In order to stress both simultaneously we must look moment to moment to the work of Christ and to the work of the Holy Spirit.  Without this, a stress on purity becomes hard, proud, and legalistic.  Without this, a stress on love becomes compromise. Spirituality begins to have real meaning in our lives as we begin to exhibit (and the emphasis here is on exhibit, not just talk) simultaneously the holiness of God and the love of God.  Without our exhibition of both, our marvelous God and Lord is not set forth.  Rather, a caricature is set forth and He is dishonored.
We paid a terrible price for what happened in those early days.  As some of you now come out of your denominations, please do learn from our mistakes.  Each pastor, each congregation must be led by the Holy Spirit.  If some disappoint you, do not turn bitter.
One of the joys of my life occurred at the Lausanne Congress (the 1974 International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland). Some men from the newly formed Presbyterian Church in America asked me to attend a meeting they and others had called there. When I arrived I found that it was made up of Southern men who had just left the Presbyterian Church US to form the PCA and some Christians who were still in the PCUS. Someone from each side spoke. Both said to me that the meeting was possible because of my voice and especially my little book, The Church Before the Watching World (published by InterVarsity Press). I must say I could have wept, and perhaps I did. It is possible for us to do better than we would naturally do. It is not possible if we ignore the fleshly dangers and fail to look to our living Lord for his strength and grace.
Those of us who left our old denomination in the Thirties had another great problem, as I see it. It was confusion over where to place the basic chasm which marks off who we are. Does that chasm mark us as those who are building Bible-believing churches and that on this side of the chasm we hold the distinctives of being Presbyterian and Reformed? Or is the primary chasm that we are Presbyterian and Reformed and that we are divided from all who are not? The answer makes a great deal of difference.
When we go to a town to start a church, are we going there with the primary motivation to build a church which is loyal to Presbyterians and the Reformed faith, or are we going there to build a church which will preach the Gospel which historic, Bible-believing Christianity holds, and then on this side of that chasm teach that which we believe is true to the Bible in regard to church government and doctrine? The difference makes a difference to our mentality, to our motivation, and to the breadth of our outreach. I must say, to me one view is catholic, biblical and gives good promise of success; the other is introverted and self-limiting, yes, and sectarian. I spoke of a good promise of success. I mean on two levels: First in church growth and a healthy outlook among those we reach; second, in providing leadership in the whole church of Christ.
We alone do not face this problem of putting the chasm at the wrong place, of course. A too zealous mentality on the Lutheran view of the sacraments is the same. A too sectarian mentality in regard to the mode of baptism is another. The zeal of the Plymouth Brethren for an unpaid ministry is often the same. No, it is not just our problem. But it is our problem. To put the chasm in the wrong place is to fail to fulfill our calling, and I am convinced that when we do so we displease our Lord.
Those who remain in the old-line churches have their own set of problems. In contrast to the problem of hardness to which those who withdraw are prone, those who remain are likely to develop a general latitudinarianism. One who accepts ecclesiastical latitudinarianism easily steps into a cooperative latitudinarianism which can become a doctrinal latitudinarianism and especially a letdown on a clear view of Scripture.
This is what happened in certain segments of what I would call the evangelical establishment. Out of the evangelical latitudinarianism of the Thirties and Forties grew the letdown in regard to the Scripture in certain areas of the evangelical structure in the Seventies. Large sections of evangelicalism today put all they can into acting as though it makes no real difference as to whether we hold the historic view of Scripture or the existential view. The existential methodology says that the Bible is authoritative when it teaches "religious'' things but not when it touches that which is historic, scientific, or such things as the male/female relationship.
Not all who have stayed in the liberal denominations have done this, by any means, but it is hard to escape.  I don't see how those who have chosen to stay in (no matter what occurs) can escape a latitudinarian mentality which will struggle to paper over the differences on Scripture in order to keep an external veneer of unity.  That veneer in fact obscures a real lack of unity on the crucial point of Scripture.  And when the doctrinal latitudinarianism sets in we can be sure from all of church history and from observation in our own period of church history that in just a generation or two the line between evangelical and liberal will be lost.
This is already observable in that the liberals largely have shifted to the existential methodology and have expressed great approval that the "moderate evangelicals" have done so.  The trend will surely continue.  Unless we see the new liberalism with its existential methodology as a whole, and reject it as a whole, we will, to the extent to which we tolerate it, be confused in our thinking.  Failure to reject it will also involve us in the general relativism of our day and compromising in our actions.
The second major problem of those who stay in the liberally controlled denominations is the natural tendency to constantly move back the line at which the final stand will be taken.  For example, can you imagine Clarence Macartney, Donald Grey Barnhouse or T. Roland Phillips being in a denomination in which the battle line was the ordination of women?  Can you imagine these great evangelical preachers of the Twenties and Thirties (who stayed in the Presbyterian Church USA) now being in a denomination which refuses to ordain a young man whose only fault was that while he said he would not preach against the ordination of women yet he would not say he had changed his mind that it was unbiblical? Can you imagine that these leaders of the conservative cause in an earlier era would have considered it a victory to have stalled the ordination of practicing homosexuals and practicing lesbians?  What do you think Macartney, Barnhouse, and Phillips would have said about these recent developments?  Such a situation in their denomination would never have been in their minds as in the realm of conceivable.
The line does move back.  In what presbytery of the Northern Presbyterian Church can you bring an ordained man under biblical discipline for holding false views of doctrine and expect him to be disciplined?
Beware of false victories.  Even if a conservative man is elected moderator of the general assembly (as Macartney was in 1924), it would amount to absolutely nothing.  Despite the jubilation among conservatives at Macartney's election, the bureaucracy simply rolled on, and not too many years later conservative leader J. Gresham Machen could be unfrocked.  Nelson Bell was elected moderator of the Southern Church later (in 1972), and nothing changed.  The power centers of the bureaucracy and the liberally-controlled seminaries were unmoved.
There are always those who say, "don't break up our ranks ... wait a while longer ... wait for this ... wait for that." It is always wait.  Never act. But 40 years is a long time to wait when things are always and consistently getting worse.  And (with my present health problem) I tell you soberly, we do not have forever to take that courageous and costly stand for Christ that we sometimes talk about. We do not have forever for that. We hear many coaxing words, but watch for the power structure to strike out when it is threatened. If the liberals' power is really in danger or if they fear the loss of property, watch out!
What of the future? We live in a day that is fast-moving.  The United States is moving at great speed toward totally humanistic orientation in society and state.  Do you think this will leave our own little projects, our own church, and our own lives untouched?  Don't be silly. The warnings are on every side. When a San Francisco Orthodox Presbyterian congregation can be dragged into court for breaking the law of discrimination because it dismissed an avowed, practicing homosexual as an organist, can we be so blind as to not hear all the warning bells go off?  When by a ruling of a federal court the will of Congress can be overturned concerning the limitation on the willful killing of unborn children, should not the warning bells go off as to the kind of pressures ahead of us?
Who supports these things?  The liberal denominations do, publicly, formally, and financially.  And it puts into a vise those of us who stand for biblical morality, let alone doctrine.  Beyond the denominations, it is their councils of churches that support not only these things but also terrorist groups. They give moral support and money.  Should we support this by our denominational affiliation? We may seem isolated from the results for a time but that is only because we are too blind to see.
I don't think we have a lot of time.  The hour is very late, but I don't think it is too late in this country. This is not a day of retreat and despair.  In America it is still possible to turn things around.  But we don't have forever.

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