Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Summer reading: Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace -- about James Torrance

I'm cutting my losses here and skipping ahead to our next summer reading book. I have scads of notes on Andrew Murray's Absolute Surrender -- If time permits, I'll weave some thoughts in over the coming week or so. However now I'm moving ahead to James Torrance's Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace. First, a bit of a biographical context for this book:

The Torrance family may well be the closest thing that Presbyterians may have to royalty. Tom Torrance was a noted and respected theologian, teaching Dogmatics at the University of Edinburgh -- his brother James, the subject of this reflection, was professor of Theology at the University of Aberdeen. Meanwhile Ian Torrance is currently President of Princeton Theological Seminary.

James Torrance died in 2003. In his obituary, we discover that he was born in 1923, the son of a missionary couple who served in China. James and his five siblings were all ministers or married to ministers. After serving in World War II in the Royal Air Force, Torrance studied Philosophy and theology. He served in parish ministry near Dundee before returning to the academy in 1963 at Edinburgh, where he lectured on Christian Thought.

As to his character and influence on his students:

There can be little doubt that the buoyancy and vibrancy of Aberdeen’s Faculty of Divinity in the late 70s owed a vast amount to his inspiring teaching, and to his bold leadership as Dean. He travelled widely, especially to the United States, Canada, South Africa and Australia, teaching and preaching up to five times a day. As a result, students flocked to study with him from all over the world.

On retirement in 1989, with unstoppable energy he continued to travel widely, and encapsulated the heart his convictions in a remarkable book, Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace. In 2001 he was invited to deliver the prestigious Warfield Lectures at Princeton Seminary (soon to be published).

No-one could miss the secret of his inspiration: he lived and breathed what he believed. His life was marked by an open-hearted generosity born of his own conviction that he had been welcomed unconditionally by an open-hearted, generous God. Few who knew him will forget the extraordinary hospitality he and his wife, Mary, showed in their home.

Apparently, he was concerned with impressing upon his students that theology was not just a dry and dusty exercise, but a vital discipline of living.

Blogger Andy Goodliff (a British Baptist), gives us this list of major works. A quick perusal of the titles will tell you that this fellow dealt with pretty heady stuff.

Here's a reflection from Andrew Thompson as he wrestles with the concepts in Torrance's book. As I've scoured the web, I've found nothing but glowing reviews. However, it is worth remembering that this book is a collection of lectures given at a theological college -- Torrance assumes a familiarity with technical terms and theological dramatis personae that the average reader will not have. Lord willing, we'll unfold some of that as we go along.

Soli Deo Gloria

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Bits and Pieces -- June 21 2007

It's been a while since I've done a Bits and Pieces -- but here they are for today:

Our Music Director Phil Bishop just plain humbles me. Here he's forthright about a sin that troubles him -- a careless word. A single phrase that was uncharitable toward another. O that I would be so troubled by my own glib tongue....

The Inimitable John Schroeder comments on this challenging article from the Out of Ur Blog -- small churches are more difficult -- and make a deeper impact on the lives of those who attend. John's killer comment:

It seems like "Christianity" has become nothing more than a label and we
spend enormous amounts of time, energy, and intellect deciding who gets to wear
the label. There are all sorts of different criteria - institutional affiliation
-- theology -- saying the sinner's prayer -- but I cannot help but think all of
these things fall short of the marks that Christ Himself would use to decide who
can bear His name. I am also struck by how very similar the marks we discuss are
to those that the "Pharisees and hypocrites" Christ so forcefully denounced
used. Just because they are not behavioral does not rob them of being
legalistic.We are stuck in an age where growth is considered the only reasonable
sign of health. I agree, but I'll take growth in Christ any day.

The Wall Street journal gives this interesting article on a new website called fora.tv

Fora.tv has arrangements with many lecture societies, think tanks and big book stores. Members include the Brookings Institution, the Asia Society, the Hoover Institution and more than a dozen others. When one of them sponsors a speech or panel discussion, a Fora.tv crew -- usually, one person and a digital camera -- shows up and records it.

Back at the office, the speech is uploaded to a computer and then annotated by "chapters," much like DVDs divide up feature films. The file is then put online. You can either watch the whole speech or jump to any chapter. Some even have transcripts that appear in synch with the video.

Fora has hundreds of videos on scores of topics, in the arts, current events, business, science and more. There's a session on feminism and other topics with Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem; Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus discusses how microfinance can end poverty; and writer Ian Buruma talks about social tensions in modern Europe.

Brian Gruber, the founder of the site, says his goal is for Internet users to think of Fora.tv as the gathering place for those who want to experience for themselves a speech or panel discussion they may have read about in the paper.



Support our troops -- News from Chaplain Tim Fary

I know that the issue of the war is a matter of division of the house in the PCUSA. I don't intend to talk about the war. Rather, I'd like to remind us of the men and women God has raised up to minister to the troops we've sent to fight this war -- our military chaplains.

Three of my best friends from seminary have gone off to be military chaplains. One of them, Tim Fary, serves in the Army and is currently on his third deployment to Iraq. I dropped him a line a while back asking how we could encourage him. He told me he was working to build a DVD and video game library for the troops under his care (did I mention they're in the desert, with little stress relief?). So, the good people of Covenant-First started bringing me DVDs, and I'd box them and send them. I just put over 80 in the mail yesterday -- since March of this year, Covenant-First folks have donated somewhere around 150 DVDS to encourage our troops in the field.

I recently found out that Tim has been sharing some reflections over on Common Grounds Online. In this first post, he talks about his ministry to soldiers in the Detention Facility (yes, sometime soldiers go to the military equivalent of jail -- and he gets to minister to them, too)

One Sunday there was a new soldier there. He was in the first cell. He was young, good-looking, well groomed, and had great military bearing. He looked like the poster child for mid-western America. Every time I entered the tent he would call the tent to attention. He was always neat, always shaven, and punctuated all of his sentences with, “Sir.” I was very impressed with him, grew to like him, and finally gave in to the temptation to ask what are you in for? Then, as casually as you might say, “Shooting spitballs at the First Sergeant,” he looks me in the eye and says, “Murder, Sir.” I resisted the urge to react. I simply said, “Oh, I see.” I later learned that there was more than one count of murder, and that the Army held that it was premeditated and first degree.

The thing about that experience that has always struck me is how at peace the young man seemed to be with his sin. (I don’t know his heart.) When ever I think of him, I ask myself what sins have I called a truce with? What are the areas of my sanctification that I’ve waved the white flag, given up on, and made peace?

Bang. Zoom. Right at me, too. Nathan the prophet points at my heart and says "you are the man." Tim has that kind of ministry that can wrench right to the hearts of people. How about this post about a typical Lord's day round of worship services that he conducts:
Then for the last time that day, I don my Body Armor, my Kevlar Helmet,
grab my guitar and head for the Bradley that will take me back to where my day
started. Yesterday, I remember thinking to my self, “I remember when preaching
one civilian service wore me out, and those folk weren’t even

Pastors here in the States -- our burden is easy and our yokes are light....

Pray for and tangibly work to encourage our military chaplains.

Soli Deo Gloria

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Summer Reading: Absolute Surrender -- third chapter

Links to other posts in this series:
About Andrew Murray
Chapter 1

How do I know what God wants me to do?

I get this question all the time as a pastor. However, sometimes it’s hard to answer the question due to the life situation of the person asking. At times, the person asking has had an acquaintance relationship with Christ rather than a living relationship. Murray confronts this challenge head on in this chapter as he talks exposits Acts 13:1-14: the sending forth of Barnabas and Saul. Here are some key points:

1) God does indeed have plans. Murray reaffirms God’s sovereign design over creation; also he reaffirms that God keeps back the full intricacies of His plans.

Murray recalls to us the story of a Mission Institute that he was involved with. The principal of that mission institute delivered an address at the start of the year in which he said:

“Last year we gathered here to lay the foundation-stone, and what was there then to be seen? Nothing but rubbish, and stones, and bricks, and ruins of an old building that had been pulled down. There we laid the foundation-stone, and very few knew what the building was that was to rise. No one knew it perfectly in every detail except one man, the architect. In his mind it was all clear, and as the contractor and the mason and the carpenter came to their workd, they took their orders from him, and the humblest laborer had to be obedient to orders, and the structure rose, and this beautiful building has been completed. And just so, this building that we open today is but laying the foundation of a work, of which only God knows what is to become.” (92)

I’ve experienced this kind of awesome providence, as I retold in my sermon on Ruth 4 about God’s extraordinary providence through his long term-thinking.

2) God does give direction. Murray boldly asserts that for those who are willing to give themselves over completely to God, the Holy Spirit reveals God’s will.

“It is easy for those who are in right fellowship with Heaven, and who understand the art of waiting upon God. “How often we ask: ‘How can a person know the will of God?’ And people want, when they are in perplexity, to pray very earnestly that God should answer them at once. But God can only reveal his will to a heart that is humble and tender and empty. God can only reveal his will in perplexities and special difficulties to a heart that has learned to obey and honor him loyally in little things and in daily life.” (93-94)

I’m always cautious about such bold claims, for I’ve seen too many abuses: People who claim a “word from the Lord” who are actually baptizing the first impulse that they feel. Scripture gives us the story of Jephthah (Judges 11 and 12) who made a rash vow to God, and wound up sacrificing his daughter to keep the vow. The vow was a rash impulse in a fit of showy spirituality, and Jephthah wound up doing something terribly wrong and evil because of it.

I know from experience that not every impulse that seems God-honoring is from the Lord. A few years ago, I had a great ministry idea – hosting one of those remote broadcast seminars as an outreach to the business community. I sought wise counsel. I lined up all the players and got support from some media partners. All the resources were falling into place and I knew that God was blessing the effort – I kept praying for God’s blessing on the event. Two days before it was to occur, I received a call from the co-sponsor that there were only 5 reservations and we had to cancel the plug. I was so sure that I’d received a call from the Lord to do this outreach. However, I was being reminded by the Lord that not every impulse is of Him.

That’s why Murray talks about the disciplines of fasting and prayer: Waiting on the lord. Sitting on ideas for extended periods of time. I don’t like talking in terms of “words from the Lord” – I prefer to think in terms of sanctified intuition. That God will shape our capacity to discern right action – and he ordinarily shapes that capacity over a time of exercise of Christian discipleship: prayer, bible reading, spending time with wise Christians, humbly serving those in need, learning how to speak about Christ’s work. That’s what Murray means, I think by learning to obey and honor God “loyally in little things and in daily life” – Eugene Peterson calls it “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” (a great book for devotional reading if you’ve never seen it). This makes sense – If God’s plans work out in the Long Term view, then we must take a long term view to spiritual discernment.

3) God expects us to start with him, rather than coming to him as an afterthought.
“A man may often have a measure of the power of the Spirit, but if there be not a large measure of the Spirit as the Spirit of grace and holiness, the defect will be manifest in his work. He may be made the means of conversion, but he will never help people on to a higher standard of spiritual life, and when he passes away, a great deal of his work may pass away too. But a man who is separated unto the Holy Ghost is a man who is given up to say ‘Father, let the Holy Ghost have full dominion over me, in my home, in my temper, in every word of my tongue, in every thought of my heart, in every feeling toward my fellow men; let the Holy Spirit have entire possession.’” (96)

These disciplines of life are to tune us to grow toward absolute obedience.

4) God’s mission for us requires ongoing fasting and prayer:

“We have the key that can unlock the dungeon of atheism and of heathendom. But, oh! We are far more occupied with our work than we are with prayer. We believe more in speaking to men than we believe in speaking to God. Learn from these men that the work which the Holy Ghost commands must call us to new fasting and prayer, to new separation from the spirit and the pleasures of the world, to new consecration to God and to his fellowship.” (98)

Again, I’m cautious about calls for greater separation and self-denial. History has shown time and again that periods of great spiritual intensity often degenerate into a kind of legalism in which the “new separation from…the world” becomes a dour soulless imposition upon the spiritually weak and immature. We must realize that while the separation is a general calling for Christians, the specific manifestations of that separation will be rooted in our situation and shaped by our current sanctification.

For instance. The puritans considered theater “worldly entertainment”. Good Christians didn’t partake of the theater because it was decadent. However today, theater is considered art and many Christians believe it to be redemptive (plays are, after all stories – and good stories are about sin and evil and redemption and goodness). Naturally, as we grow in Christian faith, however, our taste in theater will be shaped by our faith. There are plays I won't go see because it would be unhelpful to my spiritual growth. And there are times and seasons when I might lay down theatre because more pressing things are on my horizon, or I have more needful uses of our finances. Or perphaps indulgence in the theater is producing something sinful in my life.

And that’s ultimately the real challenge. Where is the dross in our lives? Every garden needs to be pruned back. Dead branches need to be taken away. Out of control growth needs to be clipped so that new growth can occur. Lawns need to be kept trim to keep out weeds and to stimulate new grass to develop. The same is true in our lives.

We have certain entertainments and enjoyments that, while not overtly sinful, are distracting. God may be calling us at this time in our lives to trim some of these things out. However, there are so many things in this world that have so many uses, that that trimming is necessarily personalized. I have trimmed cable TV out of my life for the past decade – it’s been good for me and the family. Other families might decide to trim the internet out of their lives. Where are the places where you can trim the fat. The little book Give it Up, while not a brilliant tome, does challenge each of us to consider the need to prune things away.

The point is to clear up the clutter so that we can hear more clearly as God speaks.

Questions for reflection:
1) Look back over your life – what are events that you’ve experienced that bore fruit many years later in unexpected ways?

2) Look at your present spiritual disciplines – what are you doing that helps train you to better discern God’s calling on your life?

3) Look ahead to future decisions, events, or activities. In what ways can you begin now to seek God’s guidance and will before you have to make a decision? In what ways will you maintain an openness to unexpected possibilities?

4) What kind of response do you expect from prayer? How much power do you believe prayer really has?

5) How often do you reflect on your life and what can be pruned from it to make way for greater growth? If you were to look at your present commitments, entertainments, possessions, and habits, are there things that could be pruned away to make room for something better?


Summer Reading: Absolute Surrender -- first chapter reflection and questions

The planners of the summer book clubs asked me to prepare some discussion questions that the leaders could use. However, I’m having a hard time putting those questions together. What I’m going to try to do in the next several posts this week (and there will likely be 2 or 3 posts a day) is to both interact with Murray’s Absolute Surrender and to raise some questions. I hope that if you’re reading the books you’ll come put lots of comments and questions in these posts. I hope that discussion group leaders can use some of this material as fodder for their groups. Other Eagle and Child readers are welcome to join in as well....

Previous Posts:
About Andrew Murray

Some Key points from this chapter:

1) God expects your surrender.
This is a hard point for most of us to take, but we are creatures. Jeremiah 18:5ff “The word of the Lord came to me: ‘O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done?’ declares the Lord. ‘Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.’” We are but the clay in the hands of the potter. Contrary to popular opinion, this doesn’t diminish our dignity. Rather it enhances it. God cares enough about his creatures to be actively involved in the shaping and direction of our lives and our purposes. When we resist and run from those purposes, why should we expect our prayers to be anything but ineffective?

2) God accomplishes your surrender.
Here is the crux of Calvinism – God at work within. When we were yet unable, we lay on our faces and cry out “God, work on me. “My God, I’m willing that you should make me willing.” Murray acknowledges that even the least flicker of weak desire to be God’s servant is a good sign – for even in our weakness, God works in us. Even in our despair of lack of progress, there is sign of God’s growth. “All these searchings and hungerings and longings that are in your heart, I tell you they are the drawings of the divine magnet, Christ Jesus.” (70)

3) God accepts your surrender.
Even if we’re unsure of the absoluteness, God accepts what we bring – and he’ll grow it. Remember the story of the father of the demon possessed boy who cried out “I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:14ff) Murray tells us that “even while you are feeble, fighting, and trembling…” God is there working in your faith. Our faith may be a feeble thing, but we’re to take our eyes off of our faith and put our eyes on the faithful one.

4) God maintains your surrender.
Have we not had the “mountaintop experience” when we go to the retreat or we have the recommitment. But six months later we look back and marvel at how much we lost the fire. But Murray encourages us to trust that God will maintain our surrender “If God allows the sun to shine upon you moment by moment without intermission, will not God let his life shine upon you every moment?” Philippians 2:12ff “….work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

5) God blesses you when you surrender.
“You must deny self once for all. Denying self must every moment be the power of your life, and then Christ will come in and take possession of you.” (74)
In Calvin’s Institutes, Book three, chapter seven he describes the sum of the Christian life as “denial of ourselves”. He explores this in relation to our self-denial toward God and our self-denial toward our fellow men. Chapter seven and eight are well worth a read for those who want to go deeper into the topic (indeed the whole Institutes is a great read ... but a little much for this summer)

Questions for Reflection
1) What are some practical ways to be mindful that we are creatures rather than masters?

2) Reflecting on your life, where have you felt the “divine magnet” drawing you closer to the living God?

3) Where in your life have you seen God sustaining your faith, even when you felt terribly weak?

4) In what areas of your life do you want to practice more self denial?


Friday, June 15, 2007

I get by with a little help from my friends...

The Eagle and Child has been blessed by friends in the blogosphere of late:

Just today, Stushie (from Heaven's Highway -- one of our Presbyterian Blogging pals) listed the Eagle and Child first out the door he took his friday blogochuting jump -- check out his past lists for blogochuting here -- but only if you have some time to share -- Stushie makes some great picks to great sites).

Last week, we had an Eagle and Child first. Liz Bowater (who posts WAY too infrequently) dropped by the house with a present. It seems that several years ago, she had been touring about in England -- Oxford in particular. Thus, she visited what has become the Mecca for CS Lewis fans: the Eagle and Child pub (known affectionately as "the Bird and Baby"). She was feeling a little touristy and .... yes.... she bought the t-shirt.

Said t-shirt languished unused in her drawer for years until she had an epiphany of sorts -- "Russ -- his weblog is named The Eagle and Child." And thus we have the official presentation memorialized here:

Thanks Stushie and Liz. You are kinder than I deserve.

Soli Deo Gloria


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Blogging to Learn: Skepticism and Citation

Last night's post on Andrew Murray put me in mind of another topic that comes up in Blogging to Learn -- that of citation.

Yesterday, I that several different Christian websites had lifted identical language from some source about Andrew Murray's life. None of these sites offered any citation for some of the unique biographical details (appropriate citations such as "In a letter to his sister on Dec 4, 1875..." or "From his book Humility...." or "As biographer Ann E. Body states..."). This gets us into the twin problems of credibility and plagarism.

I'm well aware that the blogging genre is more freewheeling and geared toward rapid dissemination of thoughts, opinions and ideas. The genre itself seems to mitigate against such forms of citation. However if we're truly blogging to learn, we're more interested in what is true than what is rumored. And what is true often requires a little work.

Case in point... a few years ago, I received via email this nice little story about a chance encounter between Sir Winston Churchill's father and the father of Andrew Fleming, the man who discovered Penicillin. It was a lovely story, and I wanted to use it in a sermon, like this pastor did:

We live in a country where everything has to do with looking out for number one. Such an approach to life is self-defeating, it leaves us empty and unfulfilled. For none of us live in a vacuum. The way I look out for you in reality is the way I look out for myself. In is in giving that we get, in loosing that we find, in dying that we live. That’s Gospel. I need you and you need me and in being aware of that and honoring that we fulfill ourselves. His name was Fleming and he was a poor Scottish farmer. One day while working in his fields he heard a cry for help from a nearby bog. Dropping his tools he ran to the bog and found mired to his waist in black mud a terrified boy struggling desperately to free himself. The man named Fleming rescued that boy from what would have been a tragic death.The next day a carriage pulled up to Farmer Fleming’s sparse house. An elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced himself as the father of the boy who the farmer had saved. "I want to repay you," he said. "You saved my son’s life." "I can’t accept payment for what I did," farmer Fleming replied. At that moment the farmer’s son came to the door of the modest farmhouse. "Is that your son?" the nobleman asked. "Yes," the farmer replied. The nobleman said, "Let me take him and give him a good education. If he is anything like his father, he’ll grow up to be a man you can be proud of."

And so it happened. In time farmer Fleming’s son graduated from St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London and went on to discover the miracle drug Penicillin. You and I know him by the name Sir Alexander Fleming. Years afterward the nobleman’s son was stricken with pneumonia. What saved his life, penicillin. The name of the nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill and the name of the son saved by penicillin- Sir Winston Churchill. Fleming, Churchill, two great names. Did the name make the man or did the man make the name? Of course it is the latter not the former and it happened because each looked to the interest of the other.

There was a problem, however. No citation. No credible source. I really liked the story Before using it in the sermon, I spent about an hour on the web looking for any kind of confirmation. Zero -- zip. According to the PBS website, Fleming worked hard and came into an inheiritance that allowed him to attend medical school. Though not available a few years ago, a number of websites have put up pages to dispel the myth of the Fleming Churchill connection. Indeed the Churchill Center has put up a well documented page about this story -- citing biographies and letters indicating that it just couldn't possibly be true.

To be credible, we must provide a trail for our stories -- we must back things up with a little evidence. Sometimes that's impossible. I have in my posession one email and one letter, both from missionaries that I correspond with (one in Europe, one in the US). Both tell stories of Muslim men that have approached them speaking of dreams in which they have encountered Jesus Christ. These Muslim men sought out the first Christians they could find to ask about Jesus. I can tell you these stories, but I can't provide the supporting documentation because my friends have asked that their identities be protected (in order to protect their ministries). On this one, you just have to trust me that I did indeed receive two such firsthand accounts.

You're much more likely to believe me if I've earned the credibility by demonstrating time and again that my sources are reliable -- that I take the extra effort to track things down and make sure there is some grounding in reality -- or that I openly say "I heard this story, but I don't know if its true."

Our credibility gets sapped when we lift word for word from some other source without acknowledgement (see this cautionary tale from the NY Times -- registration is required, but access is free -- about a preacher who was delivering another preacher's sermons word for word).

The flip side of establishing credibility is having a healthy skepticism. The web is something like a wild west of information. Any yahoo with access to a keyboard is able to post whatever scred he or she chooses. Reader beware. Sure, we can relax our guard a bit around trusted information sources -- people who have established our credibility time and again. But just because something pops up on a weblog, that doesn't mean it is the truth. Look for multiple sources. Use a little creativity in doing some digging. Brush off those old research skills from college. And then when you discover some facts ... blog it, and you will have been blogging to learn!


Summer Reading at Covenant-First: Andrew Murray's Absolute Surrender -- about Murray

This summer at Covenant-First Presbyterian, we're sponsoring a series of book clubs in which we'll read books recommended by Andrew Purves, our Homecoming Conference speaker. Throughout the summer, I'll be putting up posts interacting with the three books we'll be reading. The first book we tackle is Andrew Murray's Absolute Surrender.

So for today, a few preliminary words about Andrew Murray.

The Wikipedia article is quite sparse, but it does give us his dates (1828-1917) and his main geographic location (South Africa -- serving the Dutch Reformed Church). He and his wife had eight children, and the article notes the encouraged the South Africa Revival of 1860. The nice feature of this article is the extensive list of links to Murray's works. (he did write over 250 books and pamphlets)

The next source of information for me came from Charles Stanley's In Touch Ministries site. Here we find that Murray's preaching attracted large crowds. However, Murray was prone to illness, one bout even taking him away from preaching for two years! Even so, these health trials strengthened his faith, as the article tells us:
Murray'sdaug hter wrote of her father, "It was after the 'time of silence' [in sickness] when God came so near to father and he saw more clearly the meaning of a life of full surrender and simple faith. He began to show in all relationships that constant tenderness and unruffled lovingkindness and unselfish thought for others which increasingly characterized his life from that point. At the same time he lost nothing of his strength and determination."
We also learn that when revival came, Murray was very cautious, wanting to "test the spirits" to make sure that this exuberance was truly of God. Among his other accomplishments were the founding of the Huguenot Seminary in 1873 and service as the first president of the YMCA (though a cursory search of the web finds no indication from YMCA sources that this is true).

Then at the Glory of His Cross webpage (a charismatic ministry based in India) we find more information on the 1860 South Africa Revival. Interestingly, in the middle of this section, I found word for word, the biography of Murray that was on the In Touch website (a cautionary reminder that net writers need to do a much better job at citing their sources and providing appropriate links)

Christianity Today's brief article expands on Murray's concern for education (he was also involved in several other educational institutions) and his theological orientation. According to this article, Murray was considered something of a forerunner to Pentecostalism, but he struggled diligently to maintain his Reformed theology emphasizing God's sovereignty over all. Christianity Today named Murray one of 113 Christians "everyone should to know". The article also gives us more information about Murray's most famous work:
One of his most popular books, With Christ in the School of Prayer, takes New Testament teachings about prayer and illumines them in 31 "lessons" designed to help the reader move past shallow, ineffectual prayer into a fuller understanding of the work God has called them to do. According to Murray, the church does not realize that "God rules the world by the prayers of his saints, that prayer is the power by which Satan is conquered, that by prayer the church on earth has disposal of the powers of the heavenly world."
All these quotes and sites from just an hour or so perusing the web. However, a few observations are in order: 1) every group seems to want to claim Murray as part of their heritage -- reformed, pentecostals, anabaptists, universalists (yes, universalists), foursquare gospel folks. 2) there's lots of stories without much documentation -- with over 200 works, it makes sense that people forget where the stories come from, but it sure would help if they cited a book or sermon 3) Murray preached and taught about a level of spiritual intensity that eludes many of us today -- I suspect that Absolute Surrender will be challenging to all of us who read it this month. I hope Eagle and Child readers will join us here at Covenant-First in working through this book.

Soli Deo Gloria

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Conversation with Sid Rice of Literacy and Evangelism: American Churches

this post continues our ongoing conversation with Sid Rice of Literacy and Evangelism. See the prior posts on:
World Missions
Technology Drivers.

Russ: That topic segues very nicely to the last topic I want to pick your brain on. You travel all over the country. You get to see a lot of what’s happening in the US. – from little places like Covenant-First with 160 members to 20,000 member Saddleback and everything in between. What do you see happening on the American church scene that are encouraging, what are some areas where we can learn from our brothers and sisters in Africa. What do you see going on that’s intriguing to you.

Sid: It’s easy to get jazzed by some of the mega-churches. At the risk of being tantalized by something that’s … well anyway, I went to Saddleback. As I was going to talk with them about etching an agreement for cooperative participation in the PEACE plan, I said ‘let me talk to your mission committee’ They go “well, we don’t have a mission committee”. “really?” Here’s this 25,000 member church that doesn’t have a mission committee. It blows my mind. "I know you’re hugely into missions, you support missionaries and mission agencies. How does that work?"

The comment was ‘Everything is pushed down through small groups’. In larger churches, small group is church. I remember sharing this with a pastor at a church I spoke in. He said “Ah, that’s not a biblical model. The biblical model is that the congregation brings the tithes and offerings into the storehouse and the church redistributes it.” I said "Very good. The Old Testament Model. Absolutely."

When I was back up at Saddleback sharing this, the person I was talking to had a big grin on his face. He said “Sid, put it this way – do you want control or do you want exponential growth for the sake of the kingdom.” “I think I’ll go with exponential growth for the sake of the kingdom.” I replied. He said “that’s the mentalitiy. You lose control in a lot of areas for the sake of growing the kingdom.”

To me, when I look at the Presbyterian church and the battle over property, and we’re getting very political here, it grieves me hugely because I see a structure seeking to grab control, and in that grabbing of control they will never ever, ever, ever experience exponential growth for the kingdom. And to see that happening within my own denomination, the Presbyterian Church USA where I’m a minister of word and sacrament. It grieves me hugely to see us flounder while other bodies of Christ let go of that control and afford the Spirit of God to grow exponentially.

What else is going on within the church. I know that a lot of people resonate with small groups – they’re key. We're glad to be a part of that experiment within the context of mission with the Peace Plan. Not really sure what God’s going to do there, but we’re excited to be affirmed to be a part of that.

As far as what else is going on. I see lots of servant hearts, pastors like yourself, revitalizing downtown churches. I think that’s pretty significant.

Russ: You see that happening in many places?

Sid: Yeah, It’s all about servant leadership. And not only that, it’s about preaching the word. I was in Western Pennsylvania at a downtown church, if you will. My friend, the pastor there, said “It’s been a couple of decades since anybody has been in the pulpit preaching God’s word. And the folks here are just hungry for that.” Expository preaching – explaining it, applying it, illustrating it -- is so foundational to what people want in the pews these days. I see pastors realizing that and really coming back to the heart of what our pastoral call is all about as preachers. And that’s an inspiriation

Russ: That raises an interesting point. You bring up the grand issue of control – some might say “everything done decently and in order” – verses freedom, following the winds of the spirit as it were. That plays itself out not just in a polity sense of who owns the property and who controls the land, but also theologically. So how does that balance work? Where you are under the control of the Word of God and yet freed by the Holy Spirit to go forth and do the mission to which you in particular are called. There’s this tension between liberty and submission. How does that work out?

Sid: That sounds like a rhetorical question to me. You just answered it. There is the tension or a balance between the two.

Russ: So, when we err too far on one side or the other, we get into sticky water, to create a new phrase. I know that some of the Eagle and Child readers will sit there aghast, not just that you’d have something good to say about Saddleback, but the whole chuckle of amusement over ‘do you want exponential growth or do you want control.’ The immediate question might well become one of expediency or faithfulness.

For instance. Martin Lloyd jones at Westminster Chapel in London was at an elders meeting and they were sorting through how to grow the church. They talked about all these things they could do to grow the church. Finally Dr. Lloyd-Jones said “Gentelmen, if you want to grow this church, I can do it overnight.” “Really, how” “simple, we put out an advertisement in the Times that says This Sunday Dr. Lloyd-Jones will be preaching a series in his underwear, and people will come from miles around just to see a man preach in his underwear. So there’s this tension between expediency and what is truly helpful. That’s what I hear a lot of the critics, particularly of the Purpose driven model, trying to get at – sometimes expediency works in the short term, but not necessarily in the long term.

I’m a supporter of the whole Purpose Driven thing – kept in context. The best wisdom I’ve received was from a colleage of mine who said “Russell, if you’re going to do Purpose Driven Church, make sure the being Purpose Driven doesn’t become the purpose.” The whole point behind purpose driven is to point us back to Christ. The whole point of Missional Church is to point us back to Christ. What I see happening so often is that the missional conversation becomes about being missional rather than about serving Christ. It becomes about “what is missional, can we truly claim to be missional. Are we thinking about missional. Suddenly, being missional is the mission. I think that’s part of the critique and I’m sensitive to the critique. But I’m also sensitive to what the folks at Saddleback say ‘We’re on a mission here.” How do you tap dance through all that?

Sid: It’s really getting outside of ourselves. Whether it’s purpose driven or the next step, the PEACE plan, it’s a vision to attack – a huge vision to globally attack the balance of those who have not heard so we can bring our leader Jesus back to earth. That’s the driving force – if somebody’s got a better plan, praise God. Get after it go do it. Don’t sit idly by.

One of the things that In my travels abroud is my sense of how aggressively other faiths, in particular the muslim faith, is aggressively going after new converts. They are aggressively spreading their word. I’m disturbed that we’re sitting around and critiquing each other as opposed to affirming each others experiments, and getting after the work that God has called us to do. It’s easy to be a critic, and I love Moody’s comment about the guy who came up to him and said “I don’t like the way you do evangelism.” “really I don’t either – how do you do evangelism.” “well, I don’t” “Well I like the way I do it better than the way you don’t.”

So if somebody’s getting after it, Praise God, how can we affirm them. How can we augment what’s happening. Presbyterian Global fellowship – what a breath of fresh air – we’re looking outside ourselves and getting after the great commission.

This interview will be concluded in tomorrows post (probably late night)

Soli Deo Gloria

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A Conversation with Sid Rice of Literacy and Evangelism: Technology Drivers

This Post continues the conversation I had with Sid Rice, the director of Literacy and Evangelism International. See Part I on Leadership and Part II on the World Mission Scene. This third part focuses on how LEI is leveraging Technology in light of developments on the world mission scene:

Russ: That’s fascinating. We mentioned Collins’ work earlier. One of the things he talks about is technology drivers: Strategically choosing technology. This is the third instance you’ve brought up of how 21st technology has dramatically impacted your ministry: being found on the web by the man in Malawi, this PEACE program wiki, and now you’re leveraging some great digital opportunities. This strategic leadership.

Sid: I remember a hearing about book titled Go Digital or Die, but I haven’t found it yet – it may have been an article I saw. I think it’s incumbent upon us to leverage all the myriad of tools. The digital arena allows hundreds of thousands of churches to avail themselves of our curriculum. They can download it with no charge.

As an aside, I’ve said no charge a couple of times, and at first, coming out of corporate America, that didn’t feel quite right. And yet, I look back over the history of LEI – for 40 years all our ministry has done is come alongside people, churches, mission agencies, Wycliffe bible translators, bible societies across Africa, Asia and elsewhere. We’ve come alongside other ministries and partner and say here’s our linguistic expertise, let’s craft a bible content curriculum to teach people to read and share the story of Christ and wrap that gift of the story of Jesus within the socially critical gift of reading. And we’ve done it at no charge. We’ve always given it away. We’ve never put a royalty on top of the curriculum.

Again, coming from corporate America, I scratch my head and go “what is with this” and it finally came home to me that the reason is because our target market, our mission, that half of the world is the poorest of the poor, the most suppressed and oppressed indigent impoverished segment of our society. When you read the book The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman talks about the unflat world. The Illiterate half of the world is the unflat world that has no chance. For us as a mission agency to put a royalty on top of that curriculum would suppress them even further. And that’s not what Jesus would do. So we’ve always given it away.

When we came into our co-operative agreement with the Saddleback PEACE plan, we said let's just give our stuff away faster. Let’s give it away on a platform that can do it significantly faster than we can in a hard copy. It’s in a digital realm, and we’ve embraced that. There’s a whole training issue that we’re running to catch up with because good training is critical to the success of using our curriculum. A key part of success is to be able to have that training in place so that people can use your material effectively.

Russ: That’s the huge thing about the digital realm. Everything is expected to be free. Everything is expected to be available. And you are known by the quality of your content. That is what defines you. Wikipedia being the terrific example of that.

Sid: It’s pretty interesting. Within the PEACE plan, it’s called the Peacepedia and it’s a malleable wiki. People can actually go into the website and delete our primiers. Its that free and open.

Russ: But there are controls…

Sid: There are controls beneath the surface, and it's also an environment where you’re talking Purpose Driven churches that will have access to this. As we look at our website, we’re looking at content management format – not quite as GUI as the media pedia format so there is a little more control there. As I was talking to our technical guy I said ‘I want both worlds’ and he said the software hasn’t gotten there yet where you can have truly wikipedia components to a harder architecture. Hey, it’s a work in progress.

Russ: Have you been in conversation with the Presbyterian Global Fellowship. They’re building a similar Presby-pedia or Missional-pedia of their own.

Sid: I haven’t, and I do need to have that conversation. I remember the conversation thinking ‘we’re doing this with a 25,000 member church in Southern California’ They’ve got this bigger vision. I wonder how much duplication of effort and work is going on and should there be some more collaboration.

By the same token, we’re also working with the Assembly of God out of Springfield MO. We just finished a hard copy curriculum that is training at a Bible College level to use our curriculum. It’s like we’re going in different directions. And they want to be able to access our materials digitally as well. They're another driver to us to host our material on our own website.

Right now there are just a lot of people pursuing the same ministry goals. And that’s good. Sometimes you wind up tripping over each other towards the end. I don’t know that that’s all bad. Within our sphere of partnerships we’ve given birth to Literacy and Evangelism Fellowship of Kenya, an independent daughter organization that is working on the same types of projects that we work on. We need to be in constant dialogue with them because we are targeting strategic languages as are they. We need to be sure that if they’re looking at a language that we’re coming alongside of them asking how can we support you, how can we garner investments in North America to funnel in your direction to support what you’re doing. It seems like we’re also going in tandem directions doing a lot of the same things:

Within Presbyterian Global Fellowship, downstream I can envision just a natural link, a page saying here’s who we are, here’s our heritage, this is what we’re doing. Click here to enter into the world of literacy missions with LEI. Lots of opportunities to connect.

To be continued tomorrow

Soli Deo Gloria

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A Conversation with Sid Rice of Literacy and Evangelism: The World Mission Scene

Today we continue our conversation with Sid Rice of Literacy and Evangelism. If you missed it, see yesterday's post, when we talked about Leadership. Today's conversation begins with us talking about the world mission scene:

Russ: Let’s shift gears and talk world mission. What’s exciting that you see happening out there on the world mission field?

Sid: There are a lot of different things happening. I told you about the guy from Malawi who spent 10 years translating his heart language with a team of translators. As he was finishing up the New Testament, he found out that in southern Malawi, 70% of the people in his network of churches where he was doing the translation could not read. It just flipped a switch in him and he started looking for literacy programs. He found LEI on the net and spent last summer with us. He’s now a full time LEI missionary. For me, being in literacy missions, it's hugely rewarding to see someone who was called by God to a season of translation, and now to a season of literacy missions because the need is so huge, so awesome.

I talked about another guy in West Africa out of the Ivory Coast. He’s responsible for 13 different countries specifically for church planting with Global 12 which is a charismatic community. His comment was ‘I am putting in place pastors who cannot read’ He confided in me that he was planting churches but the pastors who were pastoring these churches couldn’t read, couldn’t study, couldn’t feast, couldn’t exegete the word of God because they couldn’t read. He said it’s such a huge impediment to church growth and discipleship in West Africa, his sphere of influence. He’s come on as an affiliate missionary member of LEI. We love to see those kind of partnerships in areas where we see such a huge need.

Another thing happening in the world of missions – the invasion/entrance of short term teams is a huge phenomenon, and its debated as being both good and bad. I was in the corporate world for a couple of decades – what inspired me toward the ends of missions and outreach was in the early 90s starting to participate in short term missions through my local church. First participating, just going along. Then in leadership positions. It really ignited my heart and passion particularly for outreach in the context of mission. And I know the spiritually transformative value of short term missions and that’s why I’m particularly jazzed about our partnership with the PEACE Plan.

Russ: The PEACE Plan. Tell me a little more about that.

Sid: It's the next big project from Saddleback church. PEACE is an acronym that stands for:

Planting churches
Educating servant leaders
Assisting the poor
Caring for the sick
Educating the next generation

That last letter of the acronym is where Literacy and Evangelism comes in. What Rick Warren identifies as the global giant of rampant illiteracy. When you read some of the stuff that he’s written on that you think “wow, he’s been reading our website”

Russ: That’s glorious

Sid: You can see him up there going “Half the world cannot read – can you imagine that” It’s neat that we’re a part of their experiment. It really is. They talk about ‘firm jello’ (meaning everything’s a work in process – as it should be) as we come together to bring Jesus home sooner. That’s the overriding goal of missions domestically, locally, and internationally -- to hasten Jesus' return.

The PEACE plan is envisioning empowering short term teams and small groups to reach the remaining unengaged 3400 people groups around the world. They’re building a beta website whereby resources are going to be available to meet those ends, those needs. Literacy and Evangelism is currently the only literacy resource of record on their beta website. We’ve put almost 100 of our different readers in different languages for them to give away to their network of hundreds of thousands of Purpose Driven churches around the world. For LEI, it could be very well the most significant platform of distribution of our product in the history of our 40 years of existence. I’m very mindful that this is an experiment, who knows how God’s going to use it, but we feel hugely affirmed by this group coming to us and asking us if they can use our product.

Russ: That’s a great example of strategic partnership. I also know you’re staffing for short term missions. It’s interesting how that goes hand in glove with this strategic partnership.

Sid: Coming alongside Saddleback has opened up our vision of possibilities. And now we ask what about those churches that aren’t a part of the Purpose Driven network? How do we service those small groups or churches or even individuals that are inspired for literacy missions – who see that global giant of illiteracy and want to help God attack it around the globe. We’re crafting and re-designing our website into a content management format where we can host our primers (Editorial note -- a primier is an introductory reading curriculum), the treasure chest of 40 years of work, out on the net for people to download.

We’re also working on a media initiative in the preliminary stages – Here in North Americal we have 3-5 week literacy training events that empower people to go back to their respective countries and launch literacy programs. Now we've been pushing that training out to sites in Africa and Brazil and India. Our new concept is to take that into the digital arena.

To be continued tomorrow

Soli Deo Gloria

Monday, June 04, 2007

A Conversation with Sid Rice of Literacy and Evangelism: Part I - Leadership

This weekend, we had as our guest preacher Sid Rice, the director of Literacy and Evangelism International. In an effort to maximize his visit, I invited Sid to be the very first Eagle and Child official interview -- I told him that I'd like to talk with him about leadership (because of his extensive years of corporate experience prior to his taking this position), the world mission scene, and what exciting things he sees happening in churches in America (because he travels a lot and sees many different things).

Today we focus on the first topic -- leadership:

Russell: Let’s talk about leadership, to start with.

Sid: Right. When you get in a leadership role it seems like you’re bombarded with so many things. You know that in the pastorate. The verse at the end of Matthew 11 – Jesus was teaching his disciples and he says that when you feel tired from carrying so many burdens, take on his yoke – take on the yoke.

I remember reading that. It goes from the plural of burdens to the singular of the yoke that He has for you. To me it really spoke to singular focus: when you’re in leadership roles, you need to key in on those things that God is calling to you.

From a leadership perspective the most huge thing that you can do is connect with the yoke. It’s intimate singular relationship with Jesus Christ. To take burdens, issues, cares to God every morning – for me I’m a morning person, I crank at the outset of the day. That’s my best time, my optimum time. To spend your optimum, whether it’s at night or at morning, your best energy in the presence of God.

I found that navigating through the breadth of scripture is hugely helpful. And yet when you find those pieces that resonate with you, where you sense God speaking through His word to you, you pause. You begin to enter into a time of on-your-knees-sacred-reading where you’re praying the words and contemplating on what God is speaking to you. For me, in a position of leadership, it’s just been so refreshing. I’ve recently had some sweet times in the presence of God on my knees early in the morning before anybody else gets to our campus or office. I just find that as being key to my ability to appropriately lead and direct a mission or ministry.

Russ: So leadership is really rooted in spiritual discipline.

Sid: I would say that absolutely. It’s the ultimate foundation. And yet within a leadership role, as you know, there are myriads of pressures. To be able to come into the presence of God and have him speak directly to you through his word is just a huge spiritually foundational core to how we do life and do ministry.

And that segues into what we do at Literacy and Evangelism. I’m constantly struck that with some of the foundational things that I do for me spiritually – half the world cannot go there. This whole gift of sacred reading and being able to read God’s word, to meditate on it, to pray in it, to bask in it in a dialogue with God – half the world can’t do that because they cannot read God’s word or pray God’s word back to him like we do. It’s hard for me within the context of all of what I do. I’m surrounded by missionaries who come back from the field. I’m out in 2/3 world scenarios and I see it. But I'm constantly struggling to bend my mind around the poverty of not being able to feast upon the word of God and consume God’s word. That’s really a driving force for the passion I have for the ministry of Literacy and Evangelism. That overwhelming foundational resource that we have what half the world doesn’t. I struggle to bend my mind around that concept.

Russ: That's a huge task. You’re talking half the world – you’re talking about the enormity of the spiritual challenge. That must drive you.

Sid: The enormity of the task – having been to Urbana last December and seeing huge mission agencies like Wycliffe and Pioneers and Lutheran Bible Translators say ‘Hey, we can’t do this alone. We’ve got to connect. We’ve got to collaborate. We’ve got to have strategic partners all over the world.’ Form a perspective of Literacy and Evangelism, you step back and go ‘wow, where do we need to connect.' It’s pushing us into appropriate partnerships and different directions.

Russ: It’s interesting – In Jim Collins' Good to Great, he talks about the key drivers of leadership. One of those being leadership that will hold the good of the organization above the ego trip, above personal goals – he defines it as level 5 leadership. To a degree, that’s a little of what I’m hearing you describe at Urbana where these mission agencies were setting aside the mindset of ‘we can do it ourselves’. They were really being able to say ‘what’s the task to which we are called? How can we be strategic in this? What are we as Wycliffe good at? What are you as Pioneers good at? Etc.

Sid: And Literacy and Evangelism, what are our strengths?

Russ: And that’s another piece of Jim Collins work – finding what he calls the “Hedgehog concept”

Sid: Right. We have a core ministry that was foundational to the inception of the ministry that was purely literacy where we create curriculum up to almost 200 languages around the world. About 15 years ago, we got into English as a Second Language. I’m still debating whether or not ESL is a distraction for us. There are lots of defenses of why we have ESL as part of our portfolio, and I’ve asked everybody on staff to read Good to Great. At our fall regional directors meeting, we’ll be taking that discussion of strategic focus to a different level for the ministry.

to be continued tomorrow....

Soli Deo Gloria

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Off The Shelf: A History of the Ancient World

Permit me to blow the suspense right now -- you need to buy this book and read it and keep it on your shelf as a reference too.

Why, you may ask?

Quite simply, this is one of the best history overviews I've read in a long time. Author Susan Wise Bauer is a professor at William and Mary, and she's giving a high level introduction to the Ancient world -- the earliest records of history up to the Fall of Rome. Lest you think this is a dry subject, Bauer writes with a refreshing wit and clarity not often found in history tomes.

Her approach is to start as far back as we have written records and then to move forward. Thus, she doesn't work geographically (like many histories), but chronologically -- and thereby she establishes connections that we may have missed before. Additionally, Bauer does us the service of including the history of India and China alongside the more familiar histories of Egypt and Greece and Rome. This alone makes the book worth the price, for in general my knowledge of Indian and Chineese cultures has been woefully lacking.

This book is very helpful to the Christian who wants to put the Bible within a historical context -- for Bauer takes the Biblical stories seriously -- she tries to put Abraham in the context of early Mesopotamia and Egypt. We learn about the international politics of the Ancient Near East at the time of the Kings of Israel (and the great prophetic activity of the writing prophets).

Bear in mind, Bauer isn't producing a work of original research -- she's working as a synthesist, tying together the work of many scholars in many fields. Almost any expert will find something to quibble about -- some debatable issue that she has glossed over. However realize that this book is meant to be an introduction. It is for the non-scholar who wants a readable and reasonably complete overview of the ancient world. In this task, Bauer has succeeded. I hope you'll enjoy.

Soli Deo Gloria

Friday, June 01, 2007

...I took the first fast boat from China.... and there's still so much to be done.

China has been looming large in my imagination of late. The Middle Kingdom, as it was called by the ancient emperors, has been in my brain ever since the transfer of control of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom back to China. This massive country of over a billion inhabitants has been the topic of political and economic angst and opportunity seeking. It has also been the locus of an explosion of Christianity in the underground house church movement. The nation has deep roots going back just as far as our Greco-roman and Mesopotamian roots. It is big and complex and baffles the mind.

Last week’s Economist featured a cover story on “America’s Fear of China”. But the article that caught my eye was a little one-pager titled “Confucius makes a comeback.” Apparently during Chairman Mao’s tenure, Confucian studies were almost wiped out. Mao’s goal in his cultural revolution was to clean the map, to obliterate any memory of the mythic past and found society anew in the soil of Marxist revolution.

Funny how these cultural purges never seem to work. Mao felled the tree, but he didn’t eradicate the stump, and now new shoots of Confucian thought are growing quickly. The article talks about Yu Dan’s summary of Confucian thought – it sold 4 million copies already. Confucian studies programs are cropping up all over China. Even top Communist Party Officials are subtly incorporating Confucian language into their slogans and speeches. “The relevance of Confucian ideas to modern China is obvious,” states the article, “Confucianism emphasizes order, balance, and harmony. It teaches respect for authority and concern for others.” The article goes on to wrestle with whether this development will assist the Party in shoring up it’s bankrupt ideological base.

Of greater concern to me is the missiological perspective. While Christianity is exploding in China, it only accounts for a fraction of the total population. Thousands of Chineese students trek from their homeland to study here in the US. These students present a grand opportunity for us to demonstrate the love of Christ through hospitality and openness. Our church has been involved with International Friendships here at the University of Cincinnati, and the great majority of students touched by that ministry are Chineese.

It seems that it would be wise for us to raise our cultural awareness of China for many reasons – it is a rising economic power with which we must do business, it is a formidable political force in the world, but also for the missiological reason of sharing the good news of Christ with students who come to our country. Raising cultural awareness is a bit more than reading the Chineese zodiac placemat while you wait on your order of Moo Goo Gai Pan; it requires more effort than watching Mulan with your children. Perhaps we all need to read a little Confucius; perhaps some of us need to open our homes to some Chineese students and ask them lots of questions about home. Perhaps we should pray for the ingathering of Chineese peoples to Christ “the banner for the nations.” (Isaiah 11:10-12)

Soli Deo Gloria
PS -- a genuine unofficial Eagle and Child No-prize to the first person who correctly identifies the song from which the title to this post is quoted (and also the artist).