On Supporting Christian Bookshops

On Supporting Christian Bookshops

I’ve come to believe that Christians ought to support their ‘local’ Christian Bookshop. At least more than they do already. I put local there in ‘quotation marks’ because ‘local’ doesn’t necessarily mean where you live anymore (see below).

Bookshops are Closing

Speaking to a rep recently I learnt first-hand that Christian Bookshops are closing all over the place. At least two not so far away have closed. The rep I spoke to used to supply them, but not anymore. When I’ve been serving in the shop, customers here on holiday are thankful we are open. Why? Because ‘the one near us has closed’ they say. It’s not uncommon to hear that. Local Christian bookshops are closing!

As a Christian book buyer, I have used Amazon, like many of you, quite extensively. I’ve bought a lot of books from them. Two things have changed my thinking on this.

The Amazon Factor

The first was when they (Amazon) banned Ryan T Andersons book (When Harry became Sally) from their website. In fact, it looks like just about everyone of the main booksellers (e.g. Smiths & Waterstones) in the UK have followed their lead. To my knowledge, you still can’t buy it anywhere over here. However, I ‘read’ it on Audio, but on principle I’d buy a copy if I could get hold of one – from a Christian bookstore. I admit, some books you just can’t find anywhere else but on Amazon so I’m not advocating a ban. They have huge buying power and independent bookstores find it difficult to compete. Actually, it’s virtually impossible to compete on price – though on rare occasions it can happen. Things have changed, or become clearer. Despite the convenience, and they are convenient, Amazon are not our (Christians) friends. It’s that simple.

The Community Factor

The second reason was an article I read some months ago about local bookshops. This was in the US, but the principle was the same. The principle being that as a local business they supported the local community. The article demonstrated how they slotted into the life of wherever it is they are situated. Like everything in the US, as my Dad used to say, is BIG. So I think a small bookshop over here cannot compare to small over there. Context is everything I guess. The principle holds though. Small over here does more often than not mean small.

Providential Bookshops

The Bookshop in Rugby

In addition to that, was my own experience that hadn’t quite registered until very recently. When I first became a Christian through the witness of a friend one of the things I realised was that we needed to get Bibles and find a church. As strange as it may seem, we thought we were the only Christians in the town (we can discuss that another time). Here’s the thing, somehow or other, I knew there was a Christian bookshop in the town. So with my raggy old jeans and unkempt beard I made my way to the Christian bookshop in Castle Street, Rugby. (As far as I know it’s still open.) I went in, held my hands up in the air and proclaimed, ‘I’m Saved!’ Wally then proceeded to tell me of a church where I would get good teaching. And he sold me a Bible. That’s why (and how) I went to Railway Terrace (Evangelical Free Church) where Peter Jeffery was the Pastor. Going there was absolutely foundational to my Christian life. I can’t stress that enough! Isn’t the providence of God amazing!

Then Sue, my first wife, through the witness of a friend, in great distress went into her local Christian bookshop in Leamington (now closed). There she met David Arnold, a lifelong friendship emerged through this – especially with their daughter Ruth. David was an elder in the church in Rugby. Funny that isn’t it. Sue started attending the church in Rugby with David & Fi and their family. We then met at the church and were married, and the rest as they say is history. Isn’t the providence of God a wonderful thing!

The Conclusion of the Matter

The point being, as I said to someone recently, is that bookshops are ‘more than the sum of their parts.’ Here in Aberystwyth, we get people come in that just want to talk. It isn’t always convenient, true, but they come in. If Christian bookshops aren’t there no one can come into them. We are just a tiny tiny part in the scheme of things. But in the providence of God, we are a part. Like most Christian bookshops, we aren’t just a shop – it’s a ministry.

Here’s my conclusion then, and something for us all to consider: If you, we, don’t buy our Christian books from local Christian bookshops they will close. It’s that simple.

The Gulag, Live not by lies, and Wokeness.

Very difficult to think of a title for this post. But I’m continuing to listen to this abridgement of Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn’s ‘The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation.’ Narrated by, I believe, his son which lends to it a certain poignancy.

Listening to this is relevant to the book I’m reading by Rod Dreher, ‘Live not by lies.’ The title of Dreher’s book is from the writing of Solzhenitsyn. Reading about Communism in Dreher’s book isn’t quite the same as listening to the writing of someone that lived through its horror. The quote below from Solzhenitsyn puts some realism into our current situation and is really helpful as I read Rod’s book. The section is where Solzhenitsyn is describing what happened to Russians that were taken prisoner. I already knew this but to hear it narrated is quite different. Simply by coming into contact with The West was enough to get you imprisoned on your return home (In chapter 6 of The Gulag ‘That Spring’). Or even shot. It didn’t matter if you had defended Russia or were decorated. It was all stripped away in the name of the ideology. You were an enemy of the State. All that was necessary was that you confess your crimes.

Dreher describes the Totalitarianism we are experiencing as ‘Soft Totalitarianism’ but make no mistake it’s the same ideology. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a Captain in the Russian army. During his imprisonment he encountered other soldiers, like himself, decorated soldiers, but it didn’t make any difference. They were now an enemy of the State all the same.

So here’s the quote:

‘The West simply had to understand that Bolshevism is an enemy for all mankind. But The West did not understand at all! (from Ch 6)’

That quote, especially if you listen to it in context, is incredibly powerful. The young, it seems, and other Social Justice Warriors (SJW) want to play or experiment with Communism. They think it’s a good idea. But to repeat the quote from Solzhenitsyn ‘the West did not understand at all.’ Call it Wokeness or SJWism if you like. Whatever we call it let’s listen to Solzhenitsyn and realise ‘that Bolshevism (or soft totalitarianism) is an enemy for all mankind.’ It’s an enemy to us all. Including those trapped by it. The West still doesn’t understand.

What’s interesting for us is that we can see this at work today. For example, a person aligns themselves with the leftist Woke ideology. They like to display their credentials. Or businesses do the same. But they happen to comment, for instance, that because someone ‘identifies’ as a man or woman it doesn’t make it so because the biology says otherwise. They are still a man or a woman however they might ‘identify.’ We know these cases. That is enough. You are condemned. It’s like a Russian soldier coming into contact with The West. The retribution is merciless and swift. You are cancelled. Yes, the Soft Totalitarianism doesn’t put a bullet in your brain, or throw you in the Gulag, but its aim is to destroy you. It’s truly Satanic. It’s from the same source. (You can read about many of these cases in Douglas Murray book ‘The Madness of Crowds.’ Or consider J. K. Rowling (See here for the latest attacks) or Martina Navratilova.)

I’ll continue to listen to ‘The Gulag’ and to read ‘Live not by lies.’ Maybe a ‘review’ or some comments later. We really need to be equipped not only to spot it but to defend against it and where possible rescue those from its grip. Not everybody on ‘The Left’ is our enemy. When it comes to Free Speech we (Christians) can find ourselves standing with surprising allies. They are our friends. But ultimately without Christ they are still lost. They might not be in the grip of Wokeness, but they are still lost. They need the Saviour too.

‘When Harry became Sally’ & ‘Irreversible Damage’ – Recommended reading

I read these a while ago so I apologise for the delay in posting but here are two books that I’d like to recommend. Both are ‘Jaw-dropping’ to read. I didn’t take any notes. The first by Ryan Anderson I ‘read’ as an audio book. The second by Abigail Shrier, I also read without taking notes. I’d like to simply make a few observations about them both in this post.

I’ve now read these two books and Douglas Murrays book (Here’s my post on that) so I’m in a slightly better position now to continue reading Carl Trueman’s book (which I will eventually get round to reading and review).

When Harry became Sally by Ryan T. Anderson

I believe the author is a Christian (RC I think). I didn’t really know what to expect with it being banned by Amazon. But if you were expecting a book full of scriptural references, you’d be wrong. I can’t recall one reference. In fact, I’m not sure I remember any reference at all to the Christian faith.

The book is a devastating critique of the Transgender moment (or movement) and its ideology. The book demonstrates how utterly illogical it is for a man to become a woman (and vice versa).

It’s important to say that it isn’t a nasty book, rather it is written in a respectful manner. I thought it was well written with detailed research. He neither approved or reproved but he does present the facts (which is probably why it is banned). The anatomical details of the changes and the surgery required are quite tragic (as well as quite detailed) and demonstrate the awful lengths to which people will go.

The key to whole movement, I think, is in Chapter 2. I’ll provide the actual quote because I think it’s really important to grasp this. It’s more than Harry becoming Sally. Harry is Sally. And so the body has to be brought in line with the brain and not the other way round. The body must conform to what is the (claimed) Ontological reality. So any criticisms of Transgender people (or the movement) is a direct assault on their being. This is why any criticism is taken as a direct assault on the person – from their perspective that’s what it is. This is in complete opposition to the real reality – if I can put it that way. That is, in reality this is opposition to God and his created order. It’s rebellion at the deepest level. And it isn’t cheap rebellion either. I’m not talking cost in pounds or dollars but deep, very deep, personal pain – mentally and physically. Utterly tragic. And so for many that are caught up in this it isn’t a conscious rebellion because young people especially are being manipulated to satisfy the ideology of the Activists. They are being used. That’s the bottom line. Here’s the quote then from Chapter 2 under the heading Transgender Ontology:

‘People say that we live in a postmodern age that has rejected metaphysics. That’s not quite true. We live in a postmodern age that promotes an alternative meta-physics. At the heart of the transgender moment are radical ideas about the human person – in particular, that people are what they claim to be, regardless of contrary evidence. A transgender boy is a boy, not merely a girl who identifies as a boy. It’s understandable why activists make these claims. An argument about transgender identities will be much more persuasive if it concerns who someone is, not merely how someone identifies. And so the rhetoric of the transgender moment drips with ontological assertions: people are the gender they prefer to be. That’s the claim.’

However, some have realised the mistake of going the route of surgery based on what is a false and extremely dangerous ontology – ideas have very powerful consequences, and not all good (That’s an understatement by the way). And so in Chapter 3 we are given a series of testimonies that would advocate caution – at the very least. The claim to being Transgender is still accepted.

I do have a view on this, but I can’t work out why politicians of mainly the left, but the right as well, are sanctioning something that is so obviously damaging. Just the onslaught of logic ought to be enough to convince anyone that there’s something not right here.

Irreversible Damage by Abigail Shrier

Again, this is a jaw dropping and tragic read. More tragic actually. Abigail concentrates on how this Craze is affecting young people and especially teenagers. NOTE: She is using the word ‘Craze’ in a sociological sense not as a pejorative. It does capture something though. Abigail is not a Christian, so in a few places she does use language some might find offensive – try not to let that put you off though.

Honestly, if you are the parent of a girl, especially a teenage girl, you should read this book. Your child might just breeze through her bodily changes and all will be well. But she might not. Writing as a woman with daughters herself is helpful. She isn’t a philosopher or theologian, but she is an investigative reporter (on this anyway). And she’s a good one as well. We need people like her.

To be forewarned, is to be forearmed!

There are some shortcomings with the book which I think we need to realise. This came through with an interview she did with the two guys on their Triggernometry YouTube channel – worth watching. The shortcoming is this: Her worldview (and theirs) is self defeating. This isn’t a huge problem (for now) but we do need to be aware of it. As I write it makes me wonder if this is why Ryan Andersons book has been banned and this one by Abigail hasn’t. (Although there were those that wanted to ban her book as well – see Abigails article here.) Ryan’s book is grounded in a Biblical Worldview – this one isn’t, or not deliberately so anyway. Truth comes from God. Truth has to come from somewhere, and if not from God (the bible) it has to come from somewhere else. I’m grateful that there are still people like Abigail that can write and research from within a Judeo-Christian worldview (I think she is Jewish) but it isn’t the same as being grounded in a Christian Worldview. Don’t get me wrong I’m very thankful for her. She is most definitely our friend, in this, as is anyone that supports Free Speech. But by supporting same-sex marriage, homosexuality, and transgenderism she just, for now, draws the line in a different place to others in the culture.

Someone said ‘Support Trans Kids.’ Frankly, giving in to this ideology is NOT supporting Trans kids, at all. What it does is damage kids. Often it is exactly that: Irreversible damage.

Here’s another terrifying article (When the State Comes for Your Kids) by Abigail that shows the sort of things that are happening in some States in the US. Make no mistake, the ‘activists’ will take your kids if they can. Thankfully, the Government in the UK, for now, is opposing plans to make changing gender easier. I say for now because the ‘activists’ will not stop. See here for more on the UK situation.

Finally, I’ve shared this before but it’s such an important interview that I’m including it here as well. This is an interview with a transgender man, Scott Newgent (he admits to actually being a biological woman), who shares with us the reality of what changing is really like and what happened to him, and about the opposition he is encountering because he is speaking out. Go here for the interview with Dan Crenshaw.

It should go without saying that we are to be loving towards transgender people, whatever stage they are at. But that doesn’t mean we have to agree with it. But we need to lovingly and graciously disagree. That is almost impossible by the way if any disagreement is seen as an attack on their being, not their belief. We have to try though. I won’t bore you by saying more, but I do urge you to read these two books especially if you have teenage, or younger, girls.

‘I’m praying for you’ by Nancy Guthrie – A recommendation

‘I’m praying for you’ by Nancy Guthrie, 10 of Those publishing, 2021. £6.99 from 10 of those. This is a new book by Nancy. She’s written several books on helping people in their suffering and this is another one. I like her writing.

‘When someone we care about is going through something difficult, we are quick to say, “I’m praying for you!” But then what? Do we really pray? And if so, what do we pray? How do we know what to pray? p. 11.

It’s not a theoretical book, but is ‘40 Days of Praying the Bible for Someone Who is Suffering.’

The book looks more weighty ‘in the flesh’ than it actually is. In other words each chapter or day is only three pages long. And the text isn’t dense. In fact there are blank pages and plenty of space for notes – it’s a book to be used.

The idea is to help us pray more Biblically for those that are suffering, and to glorify God in our praying and in the lives of those we pray for. Nancy wants to help our prayers to be a bit more than ‘please heal this person’ or ‘please make this trouble go away’ type prayers.

It’s a really simple idea and maybe at £6.99 it’s a bit steep. But then if it really does help us pray more Biblically it’ll be money well spent.

I selected a few days at random to read and I did find them helpful. The aim is that it’s not about us, it’s about helping other people by praying for them. In a church setting maybe if several Christians started following the pattern here it could actually change the flavour of, or maybe ‘improve’ our prayer meetings, as well as our private devotions. It isn’t a substitute for the Psalms, but it is helpful.

I thought the QR code idea at first was a bit gimmicky, but it could actually be helpful as we send texts to those we know are going through a hard time. (You can scan the QR Code using your camera and then send the prayer as a text) It doesn’t have to be about suffering physically or about bereavement but about praying for non believing friends and fellow Christians in the church. And then to send them a brief text about what it is we are praying for them. If you find it difficult to know what to text someone in their suffering then this could help us, and them. Receiving such a text, I think would be encouraging – and that’s what we want to be, encouraging and helpful.

Let’s face it, most of us need help in this area. So all in all it could be a useful tool to us as individuals and as churches as we seek to minister to those in need.

The Morality of Spying, Lying, Deceiving – Interview with a former CIA Intelligence officer.

Last night I sat and watched this fascinating interview on Al Mohler’s ‘Thinking in Public’ channel with a former CIA operative whose wife was also a spy. It was promised to be fascinating. And it was. Here’s the full title of the interview:

Spycraft and Soulcraft on the Front Lines of History: A Conversation with Former CIA Chief of Counterintelligence James Olson

If you’ve ever contemplated the idea of the Nazis knocking on your door and asking if ‘there are any Jews in there?’ then you’ll be interested in this. Or if you’ve ever wondered what it takes to go about your life in relative peace and safety you might like it. Would you lie? I’d like to think I would. No question. Not even a debate for me. I’d rather not lie of course, but for me, it would be the moral thing to do in that situation. The spies of Jericho were quoted to make the case for lying in certain situations (Josh 2:1).

‘Spying has always been based on deception. I look for guidance from the greatest of all sources, the Bible. And we all know the story from the book of Joshua, about how when Joshua was conducting his campaign for the conquest of Canaan, he’s standing before Jericho, and he sends two spies into Jericho to gather intelligence on the defenses. And the spies are sheltered, protected, hidden by the prostitute Rahab. And thanks to Rahab they survive when the king’s men came looking for them, she lied about their whereabouts. They were able to return safely to the Israelite camp. And I think it was because of their intelligence to a large extent that the campaign was successful.’ (Quote is from the transcript)

Just this Sunday we had a sermon about Ehud. Ehud straps on a sword with the intent of killing Eglon. It was just assumed that he did the right thing but he entered with a concealed weapon and used subterfuge and lying to get an audience with the king in order to get him on his own and plunge the sword into his belly; literally spilling his guts before making his escape. He went there with one aim: kill the king. It wasn’t murder, he delivered justice. (Judges 3:19-23) So it isn’t just the spies of Jericho.

‘I often ask my students, “What are your moral absolutes?” And students say, “Well, I would never kill anyone.” I say, “Well, you’re a soldier, our country’s being attacked. You are a parent, your children are being threatened. Could you kill to protect your children or your right?” Yeah, there are exceptions. Would you ever steal? I know I can never steal anything, but how about to feed your family? How about to steal the secrets from an enemy? Would you ever lie? No, but we all tell white lies. And there are occasions, as you mentioned, where lies I believe are the only course of action to protect human life.’ (Quote is from the transcript)

The espionage world in which this man lived and operated, with his wife, and now training other operatives, is a world of lying, deceit, manipulation, subterfuge, torture, and execution (killing). What might surprise some is that he operated with a Christian moral worldview. The prospective spies he trains are expected to have a moral compass. He didn’t say this, but without some sort of objective morality they might just as well employ as many psychopaths as they can. I’m sure Russia aren’t the only ones to have psychopaths on the payroll.

You might find the whole interview intensely annoying and not agree with a single thing he says. And that’s fine. But remember this: while you sleep peacefully in your bed or go about your life each day there are men and women out ‘there’ literally putting their lives on the line for our safety and doing things so we can keep our moral superiority. I recall some years ago a story in the papers of a British Army colonel, I think, who had infiltrated the IRA. I remember thinking about what would happen to that man had he been caught.

‘And it’s really unfair after the fact, I think, for people sitting back in Washington to say, “You went too far, you should not have kidnapped that person. You should not have waterboarded that person.” Because it’s easy to say, and our people were doing this with the best of intentions. Waterboarding is nasty. I hate the fact that we had to do that. But it’s easy to take the moral high ground and say, “We’re not going to do that.” And of course the Obama administration decreed that we would not do it anymore. That’s fine, tell us, we won’t cross the line. But we have to realize that when we refrain from activities like that, and I would contend as my good friend and colleague Jose Rodriguez wrote in his book, Hard Measures, that waterboarding these three people did save lives.’
(Quote is from the transcript)

It’s a messy fallen world, and yes I know, governments aren’t always working for the interest of their own people. I’m putting a best case on this knowing, that other governments are probably operating with more dubious moral standards.

One other thing he said was that if they’d (The US) have had the intelligence at the time they could’ve prevented Pearl Harbour as the German ‘chatter’ about it was being listened to. One of the ‘What If’s of history.

A brilliant TV series, (I think), is ‘The Americans.’ It’s about Russian operatives in America living as Americans, complete with a family, but living double lives. And you get to see the CIA as well. Quite gruesome in places so if you’re squeamish or object strongly to bad language then best not to watch it. But it is quite brilliant. 6 seasons I think.

I’m fascinated by it all so I’d like to hear more on this. He’s written a couple of books so they might be worth checking out.

Note: Because the CIA was like it was in James Olson’s day, it doesn’t mean it’s the same today. Check out for example Andrew Klavan’s show.

Some might (will be) be outraged by this, but then we don’t have to make these decisions – someone else does. There was so much more and it all raises so many many questions, but here’s the video link.

Free Speech And Why It Matters by Andrew Doyle – Reviewish

Free Speech And Why It Matters by Andrew Doyle, Constable, 2021. £7.32 on Amazon at the time of writing.

It’s a hardback just a bit smaller than A5. 134 pages total. An easy to read type, a notes section and even an index. Think I would’ve preferred footnotes but it kind of works. I ended up reading the book and then read all the notes, which were actually worth reading. He uses a lot of fancy words I’ve never heard of, but then he does have a Doctorate in Renaissance Literature from Oxford. As you would expect then, the book is well researched and referenced. Like I say, the Notes really are worth reading. For example:

‘In an address to the House of Commons in March 1763, William Pitt the Elder (1708-78) recognised that the home is a sanctuary for every citizen in which in which even treasonous sentiments might be safely expressed: ‘The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It mat be frail, its roof may shake, the wind may blow through it, the storm may enter, but the King of England cannot enter. All his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement.’ p. 123, note for p. 89.

And if you know what’s happening to friends North of the Border you’ll know the relevance of that quote. As indeed does Andrew Doyle.

Early on in the book he takes a bleak view of Savonarola and his ‘Bonfire of the Vanities.’ This in the chapter titled ‘The Self-Censuring Artist.’ What Andrew doesn’t tell you is that Savonarola was going up against, through action and speech, the psychopathic Pope Alexander and his equally psychopathic Cardinal son Cesar Borgia (Duke Valentino, AKA The Prince). By speaking out against the Pope, Savonarola wasn’t long for this world. Maybe Andrew should really have been supporting him. I guess we’ll never know.

The book has 18 chapters so they are all quite short. I thought this worked well.  It’s easy to pick up and put down. I didn’t think there were any wasted words. The chapter ‘A Thought Experiment’ was interesting. Andrew chose Christian opposition to homosexuality for his experiment. It felt quite personal so I checked to see if Andrew is a homosexual – which he is. I must admit knowing that did slightly change how I read the book. Not enough to put me off it though. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I would see him as quite opposed to the Christian faith, but he wouldn’t want to lock me up for expressing the view that homosexuality is a sin. For the record I would’t want to lock him up either. I wish him no ill – at all. In the realm of Free Speech, he, along with Douglas Murray and Peter Tatchell are allies. Friends even.

As for the book, yes, it’s helpful. He perhaps makes for a surprising ally.

Like so many, Andrew wants to have an objective truth, because that is the only rational option, but then wants to have a relative view of it where it suits. You can’t have both. Nevertheless I’m grateful that common grace forces him, and those like him, to operate within a Christian Worldview, even for those that oppose it. It’s truly amazing how even the godless can end up praising God. It’s quite amusing really.

Do I recommend it? Yes I do. In fact, the way it’s written and its size makes it a handy reference book. So I may well read it again. Like me, you probably won’t agree with everything he writes. We don’t have to support his worldview, but we can support him.

As Christians we should support Free Speech, even if that means unpleasant speech, or speech that is directed at us. And there is plenty of that! There is one who judges our speech, and our prayer is that our speaking the Gospel freely will bring those who at the moment are opposed to The Lord Jesus, into His Kingdom, and then to speak FOR Him. But we don’t do that by banning the free speech of others, even those that are vehemently opposed to the Christian faith.

Extracts from ‘The Experience Meeting’ by William Williams (Pantycelyn) (3)

This is part three of sections from Chapter 1 of William Williams ‘The Experience Meeting.’ (Part 1 here & Part 2 here)  Note the condition of the church when the Spirit of God visited in revival blessing..

What follows is a description of what most of us have no personal knowledge of: when the fire falls upon His people. What’s so encouraging is that these believers were in such a low spiritual state. God visits us when He chooses to do so. Not because we’ve reached a point where we might be tempted to say ‘God will bless us now.’ The Christian faith is not a works based religion. It is Grace based, not merit based. Our merit before God is found in another. Namely in the Son of God – The Lord Jesus Christ. It does not give us licence to live how we choose, but at the same time our living is not meritorious. We do not earn Gods favour. How we should know the reality of the phrase ‘we are unprofitable servants (Luke 17:10).’

EUSEBIUS continues…. ‘But at last, forced by cowardice, unbelief and the onslaughts of Satan, we resolved to give up our special meeting; and now we were about to offer a final prayer, fully intending never again to meet thus in fellowship. But it is when man reaches the lowest depths of unbelief that God imparts faith, and when man has failed, then God reveals Himself. So here, with us in such dire straits, on the brink of despair, with the door shut on every hope of success, God Himself entered into our midst, and the light of day from on high dawned upon us; for one of the brethren – yes, the most timid of us all, the one who was strongest in his belief that God would never visit us – while in prayer, was stirred in his spirit and laid hold powerfully on heaven, as one who would not let go.

His tongue spoke unusual words, his voice was raised, his spirit was aflame, he pleaded, he cried to God, he struggled, he wrestled in earnest, like Jacob, in the agony of his soul. The fire took hold on others – all were awakened, the coldest to the most heedless took hold and were warmed; the spirit of struggling and wrestling fell on all, we all went with him into the battle, with him we laid hold upon God, His attributes, His Word and His promises, resolving that we would never let go our hold until all our desire should be satisfied.’

The Experience Meeting: An Introduction to the Welsh Societies of the Evangelical Awakening, William Williams, Evangelical Press, 1973. Pages 8 & 9.

I’ll leave it there and continue the narrative with another post – maybe two more. My desire is simply to encourage us all in the Lord (1 Thess 5:11 & Heb 10:25).

We all went with him into battle

I like the phrase ‘we all went with him into the battle.’ I don’t think that means everyone was praying at the same time or that everyone prayed. But that when one prayed, all prayed (Acts 4:24). Such was their united assault upon the throne of Grace. That’s the sort of unity we want in our prayer meetings.

It’s a fine line, perhaps, between not despising the day of small things (Zech 4:10) and the realisation that without God we are sunk. God is at work. He does not stop working. The Lord Jesus is building His church (Matt 16:18), and He will continue to build it until He returns. He gives us persevering grace. We are not fallen away because He keeps us in the way. For this we are thankful and raise our Ebenezer (1 Sam 7:12). But we pray: “Lord, give us that longing we know we need.” ‘O, that Thou wouldest rend the heavens and come down (Isaiah 64:1)’ and ‘that glory may dwell in our land (Ps 85:9).’

Extracts from ‘The Experience Meeting’ by William Williams (Pantycelyn) (2)

This is part two of sections from Chapter 1 of William Williams ‘The Experience Meeting.’ (Part 1 is here) (Part 3 here) I don’t intend to post anything, for now, on how the society meetings were organised during the flow of the revival, rather the condition of the church when the Spirit of God visited in revival blessing.

This next section is, I believe, one in which our churches can take great encouragement to not give up meeting. Revival comes not at the behest of man but by Gods gracious intervention – and that, when we are at our lowest ebb. Perhaps that is one of our problems. Our churches are so well organised that if God were absent from our meetings, or our evangelism, would any of us really notice?

‘And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him.’ Judges 16:20

The Bold text is my highlighting. I have also divided the text into two paragraphs so it’s slightly easier to read.. Continuing then where we left off with Eusebius on page 8:

EUSEBIUS continues….: ‘This is the way the Lord worked in that part of the world. One time, there were just a few of us, professing believers, gathered together, cold and unbelievably dead, in a meeting which we called a special service, so discouraged as to doubt whether we should ever meet again, some who were usually absent from every meeting, some in a deadly apathy, with nothing to say of God nor their own souls, some given over to the world and its cares, some backslidden completely from all means of grace and the ordinances of the gospel, some given over to the flesh and its lusts, as in the days of Noah – seeking a wife, seeking a husband marrying and giving in marriage – and I myself well nigh disheartened and thinking often of coming to live in warmer spiritual climes, and moving my tent from Ur of the Chaldees nearer to the borders of the Promised Land.

But, even though all things were as i have described them – the world, the flesh and Satan victorious – these special services were yet conducted in an incredibly lifeless manner. There was no encouragement for anyone to carry on the work, save only the promise of God, that wherever there were two or three coming together in His name, if their purpose were right, however lifeless their present state, He would come to them and bless them. This alone had made us come together to pray; but our prayers were not much more than groans.’

The Experience Meeting: An Introduction to the Welsh Societies of the Evangelical Awakening, William Williams, Evangelical Press, 1973. Page 8.

I like the way he says ‘This is the way the Lord worked in that part of the world.’ It may be the Lord will again work in that way – here in Wales and where you are too. But in this passage especially, we should note the condition they were in. ‘cold and unbelievably dead‘ and a ‘deadly apathy.’ How many of us have thought of moving our tents to where ‘things are happening?’ ‘To warmer spiritual climes‘ and ‘nearer to the borders of the Promised Land.‘ Is that us? Is that how we see ourselves? Or are we in need of nothing?

Also notice there were people in the meeting ‘who were usually absent from every meeting.’ I’m sure Pastors try to encourage their people to attend – but to no avail. The Lord can do in a moment what man can’t.

Despite this, we shouldn’t fail to recognise who we are. The world may despise the church of God, and we can be tempted to think that way sometimes too, but our hope is still in the living God.

‘Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God!’

I’ve written more than I meant to but I do hope and pray these posts from the writing of William Williams will be an encouragement to the church.

 

‘The Madness of Crowds’ by Douglas Murray – Recommended reading

The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity, Douglas Murray, Bloomsbury, 2020. This is the updated & expanded edition.

Have you ever seen the 1963 film ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’? It’s a totally crazy film with big stars in it all searching for buried loot under a ‘Big W.’ It’s a comedy and is hysterical. It’s very funny.

This book by Douglas Murray plunges us into a mad, mad, mad, mad world as well. There’s a lot that’s hysterical. But it isn’t funny. At all. There is a ‘Big W’ though. And an elusive prize.

I didn’t take any notes. I simply wanted to read it. I think the book will make a good companion to Carl Trueman’s latest book (started but not finished).

On the cover of the book is the line: The Sunday Times Bestseller. This is rather surprising because, I assume then, someone is buying it. I did. Presumably lots of people are buying it – not sure if they’re reading it though. Murray was initially encouraged by this. But in the afterword of this edition he’s rather more pessimistic. The frightening aspect of the book is that you can be anything you want to be by ticking the appropriate ideological box. And this is the message: we (that is, most people) are being coerced (or simply marinated) into an ideology. We are being forced further into an ideology that divides. You capitulate or else. In fact, it works the other way as well. You can be told what you are as well. So a black man can be a white man if he doesn’t get with the program. The whole idea of black, white, man, woman, boy, girl is an utter mess of confusion and cancellation. Murray has provided us with enough evidence (all cited in the end-notes) to convince anyone, that wants to step back and see, that what is going on is complete madness.

The Chapter Titles are: 1. Gay. Then an Interlude – The Marxist Foundations. 2. Women. Another Interlude – The Impact of Tech. 3. Race. Interlude – On Forgiveness. 4. Trans. Conclusion. Then an Afterword for this edition.

The chapter on Race is the longest – just. The chapter on Trans is the saddest. The whole book is fairly tragic though. At the beginning of the book he explains the difference between what he calls a Hardware or a Software issue. It recurs a few times through the book.

‘…. the contemporary world has begun to settle on a morality which roots itself in this dispute and which may be viewed as a hardware versus software question.
Hardware is something that people cannot change and so (the reasoning goes) it is something that they should not be judged on. Software, on the other hand, can be changed and may demand judgements – including moral judgements – to be made. Inevitably in such a system there will be a push to make potential software issues into hardware issues, not least in order to garner more sympathy for people who may in fact have software, rather than hardware, issues.’ p.29.

I do think there are some conditions that might be described as a ‘Hardware’ issue simply because we live, according to the Bible, in a fallen world. We should expect to find things that don’t fit. For example Murray gives some figures for people with Intersex (formerly Hermaphrodite) that might be a ‘Hardware’ issue. I’m not convinced surgery is the answer though. It’s all very sad. Help is definitely needed but it’s coming from the wrong place. Everyone has an inherent worth and dignity because we are all  made in the image of God our creator. Everyone. Just like me they need the love and grace of God not an ideology.

‘It has been estimated that in America today around one in every two thousand children is born with sexual organs that are indeterminate, and around one in every three hundred will need to be referred to a specialist.⁷’

I wasn’t sure quite how to read those figures but according to one website I looked at there’s about 1.4 million intersex people in America. That sounds like an epidemic to me. But it depends where you are on the trajectory and also on who decides where you are. Some of the people that decide, frankly, should be prosecuted for child abuse. It’s not science or health care, it’s ideology. It’s all in the book if you can stomach it. 

I’ll quote below a couple more sections from the conclusion to give you a flavour of the book.

Because the most extreme claims keep getting heard, there is a tendency for people to believe them and their worst-case scenarios. p.242

Final quote:

‘With each of the issues highlighted in this book the aim of the social justice campaigners has consistently been to take each one – gay, women, race, trans – that they can present as a rights grievance and make their case at its most inflammatory. Their desire is not to heal but to divide, not to placate but to inflame, not to dampen but to burn. In this again the last part of a Marxist substructure can be glimpsed. If you cannot rule a society – or pretend to rule it, or try to rule it and collapse everything – then you can do something else. In a society that is alive to its faults, and though imperfect remains a better option than anything else on offer, you sow doubt, division, animosity and fear. Most effectively you can try to make people doubt absolutely everything. Make them doubt whether the society they live in is good at all (and it’s working – my comment). Make them doubt that people really are treated fairly. Make them doubt whether there are any such groupings as men or women. Make them doubt almost everything. And then present yourself as having the answers: the grand, overarching, interlocking set of answers that will bring everyone to some perfect place, the details of which will follow in the post (in other words there is no answer – my comment)’ Pp. 247-248.

Given the hot-button topics I thought the book is written quite sensitively. It’s not an aggressive book, but unfortunately what Murray can’t give you, and to be fair he doesn’t try, is any hope, or an objective truth claim to base that hope on. I don’t think he’s saying there’s no such thing as truth, I’m fairly sure he would say there is, but he can’t base it on anything. If there’s no God of truth, there can’t be any truth. The Lord Jesus said ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.’ And so as Christians our hope is in God – the God of the Bible. But we do have to reach people with the Gospel of Christ; a world that is perishing and drowning in its own particular madness. This book describes the world, or some of it anyway, that desperately needs the Gospel.

Extracts from ‘The Experience Meeting’ by William Williams (Pantycelyn) (1)

I read this book years ago, and one particular section especially was impressed indelibly upon my mind. And I always tend, somehow, to make reference to it when talking about revival. Which I did do just recently. It’s about time then, that I typed that section up. It’s fairly lengthy for one post so I’ll break it up into three or four shorter posts. (Part 2 here & Part 3 here) Any highlights in bold or italics will be mine.

I don’t know if the book is still in print. Whether it is or not doesn’t really matter. What the book, or this section anyway, tells me is that no matter how lifeless we think our prayer meetings are, and let’s face it, they mostly are, the Lord is well able to visit us and revive us. We don’t need to gee them up and try to inject life into them. We simply need the Lord to visit us. That’s the only life we need. His life. The Spirit of God. Our hope is in God. Williams writes the book as a conversation or dialogue between two people, Theophilus and Eusebius. Here’s the first of the quotes:

THEOPHILUS: And now, what progress is the Lord’s work making in your country? I have heard that the gospel of Jesus has reached you, and has begotten many sons. Will you please tell me how grace began to work there? By what means? And with what power? And to what extent apart from the usual means? And which graces appeared first? What wiles has Satan devised to hinder the work? And what troubles or trials have you suffered to test and strengthen you and to purify you?

EUSEBIUS: You have asked me many questions, and I will do my best to answer them all, for I find nothing sweeter to recount, and nothing to quicken my soul more, than to remember the days of the Lord’s visitation to me and to others in the day of my betrothal to Him, the joyful day of my heart; to remember that time, to me, is ever as sweet as honey (This is the first paragraph of a long section).

The Experience Meeting: An Introduction to the Welsh Societies of the Evangelical Awakening, William Williams, Evangelical Press, 1973. Pages 7 & 8.

I can’t recall where I read it, but in one of Jonathan Edwards books he talked about how through remembering and talking about past visitations of God those same feelings can come back. I don’t think Edwards was speaking negatively here, but speaking experientially. Hence we read above: ‘to remember that time, to me, is ever as sweet as honey.’