A Red Sky at Night… is a Shepherd’s Delight

September 25, 2016

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I had a peaceful walk yesterday evening at dusk in the little lane which runs behind our home. Glancing towards one of the fields, I noticed the last of the large bales of straw awaiting collection… hopefully before more rain! Looking up at the sky, I also noticed a lovely sunset towards the west… hopefully the promise of pleasant weather on the way. We are always ‘hoping’ for good weather in Ireland, sitting as we do on the edge of Europe, the most westerly outpost before America where rain batters its way in from the Atlantic.

As we strolled home we met our neighbour, a farmer, who was walking with his dog. I remarked on the lovely sunset and he said… “A red sky at night is a shepherd’s delight…” With a smile I finished the quotation… “And a red sky in the morning is a shepherd’s warning.” Later at home I thought on this old saying and remembered the words of Jesus: ”When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” (Matthew 16v2&3)

We live in days when “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2Timothy 3v13) “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” (2Timothy 3v1) How well those terrible traits are described in 2Timothy 3! I later recalled a video which I had watched of a man who “had reverted to Islam,” which I found most disheartening. Islam says “reverted,” not “converted,” because it states that every baby who is born into this world is born a Muslim. They maintain that later in life those children become Jews, Christians etc. because their parents teach them to be so, or because of other influences. They also maintain that there is no such thing as original sin… but what does the Bible say?

“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51v5) In John 3v3 Jesus says: “Verily verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” However, I do believe that babies and the very young who have no understanding of spiritual matters are not held accountable in the way in which adults would be… “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4v17)

Another verse which upholds the doctrine of original sin is Romans 5v12: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” Other cults including Mormonism and the Bahia’s also deny this doctrine of Christian faith.

I believe that we live in an age of great deception and confusion, like never before and that “evil men and seducers” are truly “waxing worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” Jehovah’s Witnesses are active with their little literature tables in our towns and cities and people, while earnestly searching for something more in the spiritual realm, are sadly embracing error. How confusion abounds in our world with so many cults and wrongful systems of belief!

Jesus said: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7v13&14)

“Few there be that find it…” And yet it is the Lord’s will that all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth – (1Timothy 2v4) “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (Romans 5v19) The Lord Jesus Christ having “offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 10v12)

Denial of the doctrine of original sin is only one of many terrible heresies in these evil days. It is the sin condition that must be dealt with but sadly antinomianism is also prevalent amongst so called “Christian” churches and spiritually speaking that “red sky in the morning” is very evident. Joel 2v31&32 tell us that “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come. And it shall come to pass, that whosever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.”

His invitation to look unto Him and be saved still stands in this the day of grace, to all who will hear it. Oh that all would avail of it, before, spiritually speaking, this ominous red sky (the signs of the times) are replaced by a moon of blood and a sun turned into darkness, “before the great and terrible day of the Lord.”

 

Reflections on World Suicide Prevention Day

September 10, 2016

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This is a very sensitive subject which I have touched on before, because of its prevalence in Irish society. Statistics show that some countries are more affected by it than others… but then reliable statistics are not always available in certain regimes, where admission would be deemed a failure of their “perfect society.” Today, on World Suicide Prevention Day, the World Health Organisation has reported that 800,000 people die by suicide each year, which has been calculated to be approximately one person every 40 seconds. This staggering statistic would fill most people with dismay…

Sadly, most of us know at least one person who has been affected by the death in this way, of someone they love. For the Christian it is a reminder to use opportunities to reach out to those around us. Sometimes we pass someone on the street and the face we meet may not always portray what that individual is going through. Often, perhaps daily, we meet and work with people who are harbouring despairing thoughts that we nothing about.

I read a true story some time ago, and although I cannot find that story right now for research purposes, I feel that I should quote what I remember of it here. A Christian evangelist and his wife were wearily going from door to door on a wet evening and eventually the husband said that perhaps they “should call it a night” and go home. Suddenly his wife felt compelled to visit just one more door in the drab block of flats. So they turned and rang that doorbell but there was no reply; again they rang and there was still no reply… and then a third time. At last a weary soul dragged herself to that door – a soul who had been at the very point of taking her own life. To cut a long story short that lady was shown love, compassion and understanding by the couple who were overjoyed when she came to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. From loneliness and despair, she came to know a new life and a community of believers who genuinely cared for her.

We live in a world where an elderly person may lie dead for weeks on end, without their neighbours even investigating their whereabouts. But the Lord Jesus Christ “seeth every precious thing.” (Job 28v10) He looks down upon this earth with the same compassion for souls that He had when He walked upon it over 2000 years ago. There are souls in physical and mental pain today; souls who would be happy for the friendly touch of someone who deeply cares for them. It is true that even when we know the Lord we can sometimes feel despondent too and yes, those feelings can be complex – but for those who know and follow Him, we have access to a joy which cannot be found in the things of this world, none of which can lift the clouds of despair. “Peace I leave with you, my peace give I unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14v27)

It is surely His will that we share these good things sensitively with those for whom Jesus died to save. “Freely ye have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10v28) He will lead and guide us by His Spirit, just as He guided the evangelist couple to try just one more door – the most fruitful door of the night.

 

Oh For a Deserted Beach!

August 31, 2016

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The “deserted beach” is an unusual phenomenon on Greek islands like Corfu, especially during the height of the season… but strangely enough we found a few of them this year. Not only were there deserted beaches – but also an abandoned villa and a deserted restaurant, both of which were perched precariously on the edge of cliffs. Perhaps a mix of coastal erosion, the Greek monetary crises and fewer British tourists (owing to ‘Brexit’) was taking its toll in the quiet rural location where we were staying.

In contrast we saw other beaches on our travels: the “over-crowded beaches,” all dotted with umbrellas and people, people everywhere! Usually these crowded resorts had also crowded tourist shops, restaurants and noisy nightlife all night long. How glad we were to stay in peace and quiet, with just the sound of the crickets in the night air and the gently lapping tide of the sea not so far away…

Thirty years ago someone I knew had visited a resort in the south of the island and I was curious to know what it would be like now, so that I could tell her about it. Anyway, one evening we visited it, intending to have a meal there and what a shock I got! This resort, which had once been only a quiet sandy beach with a few tourist shops, was now a crazy venue where young people got drunk (and often perhaps drugged) out of their minds. It wasn’t a big town at all but ten GP’s were kept very busy there all during the tourist season, a local explained to me. “Oh yes,” he said, “they have accidents around the place and get bad falls from hired motorbikes because of their drinking you know…”

We managed to find a relatively quiet restaurant overlooking the beach and as we sat watching the sun go down, I thought about all the young lives in this resort and a saying came to mind… “youth is wasted on the young…” It is sad to think about how a baby may be born perfectly and then nurtured and cared for by a loving mother – and later that baby grows into a young person who subjects himself to such abuse!

‘I wonder has anyone out there ever taken it upon themselves to try and reach these young people?’ I thought. We had watched them in the town, jumping up and down on tables, doing crazy feats, under the influence of who knows what…. Do Christians ever base themselves in areas like this to try and reach out to those who come for the so called ‘good’ time? I had visions of tracts trampled underfoot, but still… there would be those who would listen and those would who would be convicted, for we are promised this.

Later, back at our peaceful abode with the nightly sound of the crickets and those gentle dark waves washing in on the beach, I felt relieved; so relieved that I didn’t have to stay in that other place we had seen that night. But I also felt so burdened for the young people that we had seen there. I was once like them – not a drunkard certainly, but I needed to know the Lord and there were souls who reached out to me and prayed for me. I know that. How easy it is, as the years go by, to take the comfortable option; not to ‘get involved’ and yet I believe that often the Lord wants us to get involved; to reach out in these dark dark days.

While we were away, often with no Wi-Fi and no news, I happened to view an old English newspaper one morning… worldwide terror attacks were rampant and there had been a coup in Turkey that we hadn’t even heard about. Jesus said… “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” (John 9v4) And as sure as night follows day – that night is coming.

The Lord has given each of us very unique opportunities to reach out to those who very often may never meet another Christian – except us. None of us, as long as we are alive on this earth, are exempt from the ‘Great Commission.’ Going in His will and being led of His Spirit, there is spiritual warfare to be engaged in for the Master but that work must have already begun in our own hearts. The pre-requisite for soul winning is most certainly a clean heart….

“Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.” (Psalm 51v12&13)

There are times when we need the ‘desert place’ and the ‘deserted beach’ for our own quiet times, with rest and reflection – but there is also the time when our Saviour is leading us to go into the crowds, as He did all those years ago. Do we love people enough to show them that they are heading for a lost eternity? Oh, to be aware, to pray – and to reach them with the true story of His great love for them, for He is not willing that any should perish…

Visiting the Greek Island of Corfu Once Again!

August 9, 2016

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We have been there several times and this year again had the opportunity to visit Corfu because of my husband’s attendance at a work-related conference. This time, though, we spent much more time and also visited the islands of Paxos and the small island of Antipaxos. As always I took a good supply of John3v16 handcrafted gift bookmarks in the Greek language. Last Autumn I made an attempt to learn the latter at evening classes… something I discovered to be very difficult with its different lettering system! However, this summer I found myself naturally greeting locals in their own language which I think they warmed to. It was encouraging to learn that they actually understood me!

We don’t read that St. Paul ever visited Corfu, although it is said that two of his disciples, “Jason” and “Sossipatros” (or “Sosipater”), supposedly brought Christianity to Corfu in 40AD and built the first Christian church there which they dedicated to St. Stephen. Some say this is the same “Sopater” mentioned in Acts 20v4, although I am uncertain as to the truth of this history. All I know is that today on this island (as with most of the rest of Greece) there are very few Christians in the true sense; the Greek Orthodox Church holds sway here, many of its doctrines being not so far removed from Roman Catholicism.

Today there is just one church on the entire island which would claim to be “evangelical” and the need is indeed great. I found some individuals that I talked to showed an interest, especially one sincere young man who had actually looked up my website and told us this the next time we visited his restaurant. He was the one who initiated the conversation the second time and I was touched by his sincerity.

I don’t have very good “sea legs” as a rule but felt very strongly that the Lord wanted us to go to Paxos, a small island of around 2500 people, while that of Antipaxos has just 150 permanent residents. The sailing to Paxos that early morning was just a little turbulent but once there we relaxed with a cappuccino and a lovely free Greek pastry at a sunny outdoor café and then strolled in the narrow little streets where I gave out my bookmarks as the Lord led.

It was strange that day, how we managed to get to Paxos at all… and this is why. The previous evening we hadn’t booked in time for the boat trip (which only leaves on certain days and only when the weather is just right) but all that night I felt the Lord telling me that we must go. The voice was so strong and insistent all through the small hours, to the point where I knew that if I didn’t go I would be disobeying Him. I felt that if we didn’t there was some opportunity to be lost and that the Lord wanted us most definitely to catch that early morning boat. I slept badly but next morning amazingly I felt ok and on waking I said to my husband: “I think we must go to Paxos today.”

“But we haven’t booked,” he said, and then… “Well, ok, we’ll drive over to the place after breakfast then, although I doubt they’ll let us on.”

On arrival at the port we parked and hurried down to where people were boarding the boat. Everyone had a ticket except for us and when it came to our turn, the person said: “I’m sorry we are fully booked out and it is dangerous to take any more people on board. Maybe another day? But you must book in advance.”

We turned and walked away, disappointed after the drive over there in the early morning. But mostly I felt confused, in the knowledge that I was sure that the Lord wanted us to go that day. Then, just as we were walking away someone else shouted. “Hey, just a minute, we might just be able to take you. Two people have informed us that they won’t be able to make it…” After a brief moment while this person was on the phone confirming the latter, he smiled at us and welcomed us aboard, after selling us a couple of tickets.

My husband and I exchanged glances. “I knew that if the Lord wanted us on this boat He would find a way,” he said. I am still left wondering why this should be. We didn’t get into any meaningful conversations in our brief time on the small islands but I felt a great sense of peace as I gave out the bookmarks with their limited information. The Lord helped me overcome my fear of little boats on rough seas and I know that whatever the reason for us being there that day – His perfect will was accomplished. I thanked the One who walked the waves so long ago… for safety, for the beauty of His creation, including the lovely ‘blue caves’ and the opportunity to share His precious Word with the souls He loved and died for. Surely He has promised that His Word will not return unto Him void!

 

Thou Shalt Not Steal

July 1, 2016

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The lanes, hedgerows and fields of our area have a special peace and beauty all of their own at this time of year. Everywhere I go I can smell honeysuckle, wild roses and the scent of all the lovely herbs that adorn this part of the Irish countryside. The glen that lies down a narrow lane behind our home is especially peaceful – a little corner forgotten by time and modern development. However, I know full well that I cannot slip out the back door to go for a quiet walk without locking my door, because some opportunist might just walk in! These days many people have installed electric gates at the entrance to their homes; yet sometimes these are no deterrent, as we heard recently of thieves who charged through large electric gates with their reinforced vehicle. The awful reality is that theft is as common (if not more so) in rural areas as it is in villages, towns and cities.

Not so long ago someone I know (who lives in a town) was sitting having a cup of coffee with a friend outside a café when a man walked up and swiftly snatched her friend’s handbag, which was sitting under her seat. Fortunately another man in a car witnessed the incident and chased the thief (who was on foot) managing to retrieve the bag. However the person I know wasn’t that fortunate, when a short time later she was with other friends on a nearby beach and was robbed of possessions which she had left in the car. If all of that wasn’t enough, she recently got the ultimate shock, when alone in the middle of the night she heard thieves trying to break into her flat through a window. Thankfully the police were soon on the scene when she called them but this incident has left her sleepless and uneasy every night…

There are other types of theft too, such as online scams and cyber theft. People pay for a certain facility online and they discover that they were duped. Thieves will go to great lengths and ingenuity to devise new means of robbing their victims; all kinds of methods are used to discover personal details and credit card numbers. Even hidden cameras have been installed in ATM machines which the thief will collect later. Elderly people are duped out of their savings by ruthless conmen, who prey on the fact that they are vulnerable and often worry about things they think they need. A very common type of theft (which has affected me personally) is when someone in a shop tries to short-change you. Then, of course there is the person in a greengrocer who gives you less than what you paid for… “A false balance is abomination to the Lord: but a just weight is his delight.” (Proverbs 11v1)

Perhaps it is the theft of funds which have been donated to charity that really angers people. Certainly, people who have been bereaved may benefit greatly from certain charities which provide counselling – but when it is discovered that funds have been misappropriated, this comes as a terrible shock to individuals and groups who have generously contributed and often worked hard to support a needy cause.

When all is said and done, the violation of the eighth commandment, with its simple four words: “thou shalt not steal” (Exodus 20v15) is one which has affected most people today. However, if a soul obeys this commandment… “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself” (Luke 10v27) he will neither steal, nor murder, nor commit adultery… or indeed violate any of the lovely Ten Commandments. But it is only in the Lord that we can obey this greatest commandment which covers all commandments.

Sometimes a certain type of “world weariness” comes upon the Christian when he or she sees an abundance of crime in the world in which they live. They are tired of the sin, the wickedness, the terrible murders, the extortion and the lying in this world, to the point at which they feel almost depressed by it. They may even feel a certain longing to join old acquaintances or loved ones who have been “called Home.” “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8v22&23) Understandable indeed, but we must at all times want to be in the Lord’s will. For now, this is where the Lord has placed us, in this world of sin, sorrow, suffering… and seeking souls! There is no time to dwell on the negative or rising crime rates. Out there is a world of lost sinners to be reached; so many categories of people and indeed many who have never stolen anything in their lives – but who still need a Saviour, “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3v23)

I love to walk in the quietness of the fields and to appreciate the loveliness of birdsong and the beauty of the wildflowers, with their vibrant colours and their gentle scent. Such abundance in nature and wildlife reminds me of the abundance of joyful life that we can have in Jesus. They also remind me that mankind in ancient creation was once innocent – but now this world lies in sin and the Lord has placed those who know Him in strategic positions, to reach others. While we may prefer a quiet lane with wild roses, sometimes He leads us down a more challenging road so that His perfect will is accomplished.

“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10v10) That is the Lord’s will for even the worst type of criminal, if he will but only repent of his sin and come to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith, trusting that only He can “make the vilest clean” and wash away the stains of the darkest heart.

Remembering My Dad Today, 15th June 2016 – On What Would Have Been His 90th Birthday!

June 15, 2016

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Today my thoughts were filled with memories of my father who was born on 15th June, 1926 and who was called home to be with the Lord on 16th February, 2011. I have lovely memories throughout life of his smiling face, his sense of humour, his generosity, his honesty… and his witness to the many souls he would come in contact with in his daily life. While Mum would sometimes worry, Dad would reassure her… “It will be o.k.” he would say, “the Lord will undertake.” Indeed they both complemented each other very well. As I have said before – theirs was a marriage made in heaven, lasting for the best part of 60 years.

I remember a youthful Dad, chasing me through the waves of the sea on a summer’s day when I was very young. I can still hear the cry of a seagull and feel the sheer happiness of the moment. In later years he would jump out from behind something to scare his many grandchildren – my children and their cousins! They loved his sense of fun and even when he was much older that didn’t change much. But most of all I remember him being a witness to the children as well; he loved them all so much and wanted them to experience the joy that he had found in serving the Lord.

Today I found his very first well-worn old Bible; the one which Mum gave him two years before they were married… “Christmas 1950,” it read, “from Ella… Best Wishes.” In very faint pencil I read something which brought a tear to my eye… “Saved 1949 by the blood of the Crucified One”… in Dad’s handwriting. In another place he had written… “There is a new name written down in glory. I am redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.” In yet another place the writing is faint… “I’m so happy and here’s the reason why…. The writing tails off and cannot be read. But I know why he was so happy…

Since this would have been Dad’s 90th birthday had he lived, I turned to Psalm 90 today and how apt it is! “The days of our years are threescore and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off and we fly away. Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” (Psalm 90v10-12)

Dad must have been around 23 years old when he trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation – a very wise decision which was to set the scene for the rest of his life. “So teach us to number our days…” These days I can hardly believe how time is flying… which they say, is a sign that you are getting quite old! Nowadays many people reach four-score and ten and indeed, to reach 100 is these days not as unusual as it used to be; I have seen many “100th birthday cards” on display. Still, even the longest life is really not so very long and “we spend our years as a tale that is told.” (Psalm 90v9)

Each of “our tales” is so very different. I can look back on a mostly very happy life, with the occasional bleak moments – but no one is immune from them, whatever their profession of faith. How wise to “number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” When we repent of our sins and trust the Lord of my father for salvation, then we will have a Burden-Bearer for those bleak moments. My Dad was never famous or someone who made his mark in history but these days when I hear of the death of a famous person and I listen to all the accolade and tributes from mankind, all I wonder is… “Did that person ever trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation?” Surely nothing else in this world counts. As the little rhyme goes…  “Only one life,’ twill soon be past… only what’s done for Jesus will last.”

The last time I was ever with Dad, before he took the stroke which left him badly brain-damaged, I was sitting beside him in a little prayer meeting which he had arranged with Christian friends. This little prayer meeting was being held in the very place where he had trusted the Lord in 1949. After that I have one very special memory… One night after he had taken the stroke, I was with him in hospital and stayed with him for a very long time. There were just the two of us that night. He couldn’t speak but he held my hand tightly and the look of love in his eyes for me spoke volumes. I love Dad and I miss him but I know that he has gone to be with Jesus “which is far better.” My prayer on this beautiful June day is…. “Oh Lord, help me to number my days, that I may apply my heart unto wisdom and use the time that you have given me wisely – and to your glory, for life is futile, if it not a life well lived for the Lord. Thank you Lord for these beautiful memories and for parents who, in their young lives believed, even before I was born.”

The Erroneous Practice of the “Blessing of the Graves”

June 12, 2016

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Around this and other times of the year here in Ireland I have noticed various newspapers proclaiming an event known as “the blessing of the graves.” Relatives of the deceased are encouraged to tidy their graves in preparation for the event and although this ritual may vary in rural and urban areas throughout Ireland, in all places where it is held the priest will bless those graves and pray for all the deceased within that graveyard. May I say that I sincerely hope that no one ever prays for me when I am dead! However, whether they do or not will make absolutely no difference to my eternal destination for the Bible says: “And as it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgement: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9v27) How wonderful to have that assurance in your heart… that the very moment your soul is separated from your body, it will be in the Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ! “Absent from the body… present with the Lord!” (2Corintians 5v8)

With regard to the afterlife, the Bible makes it very clear that there is only a choice of two destinations for the soul… heaven or hell. Roman Catholic theologians invariably refer to the book of Maccabees to support an ‘in-between’ destination which they refer to as ‘Purgatory’ but the book of Maccabees and other books of the Apocrypha were never referred to by Jesus or the apostles. In fact, these spurious books were not even accepted by the Roman Catholic Church until the Council of Trent in 1546 AD. Also, these books were never acknowledged as sacred Scriptures by the Jewish Church, it was not written in Hebrew and furthermore teaches immoral practices which could never be conceived to be the Word of God.

As is the case with this and other ordinances of Roman Catholicism, there is usually a sum of money involved in having your graves blessed. At this point I must relate something which I witnessed quite a few years ago. I was once visiting a monastery in Northern Ireland when I stumbled upon a “blessing of the cars” ceremony. Before me was an interesting scene… I saw a priest hovering over a car with some “holy” water, while a lady was simultaneously searching her open handbag to pay him for this dubious privilege.

I often wonder how poverty stricken parishioners have felt throughout the years, when they could not afford to pay the priest for blessing the graves of loved ones and for praying that they will eventually be released from Purgatory, which is said to be a place or state of suffering where sins are reputedly cleansed, in preparation for Heaven.

The very thought that a soul may be bought a place in Heaven with filthy lucre is surely the height of blasphemy. In Psalm 49v6&7 we read… “They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth forever).

Praise God, the great price has been paid, for “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1John 1v7)

“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you. Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.” (1Peter1v18-21)

So graves, while they may be kept tidy, cannot be “blessed” and deceased souls should not be prayed for, for the Lord Jesus Christ was “once offered to bear the sins of many” and the great sacrifice has been paid once for all, giving living souls the opportunity to repent of their sins and put their trust in His redeeming blood, so that they may have that assurance in their hearts of a home in Heaven.

“And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10v11-14) Praise God that we can “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10v22) And praise God we can be cleansed from our sins in the ‘here and now’ in preparation for Heaven – which, unlike  the fictitious place of Purgatory is a destination of pure light, love and joy; a destination which is in God’s will for every soul who is alive today. (1John 2v2)

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Corinthians 15v55-57)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3v16)

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (Acts 16v31)

There is a Rest for Weary Travellers

May 20, 2016

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One morning after a tiring ordeal just recently, I wakened to find that the Lord had given me the words of the following little poem, which I quickly scribbled down…

There is a rest for weary travellers

Upon the rugged seas of life;

There is forgiveness for burdened travellers,

A refuge sweet from every strife.

So come now with thy troubled thoughts

And lay them at the mercy seat,

For Jesus walked those waves before you

And ever lives thy soul to greet.

Oh do not journey on in life

Till here in mercy’s hour you find

Sin and hell and death defeated

By the Saviour of mankind.

Elizabeth Burke

I was thinking of the waves of the sea, not so far from my home – but I was also thinking in terms of the analogy of ‘the hilly road of life,’ as our home lies at the foot of a steep hill. “Upon the rugged seas of life” could well be substituted by “Upon the hilly road of life” and “For Jesus walked those waves before you” could be substituted by “For Jesus trod those hills before you.”

Whether it is high seas, rough roads, the scorn and hostility of mankind or physical pain, sorrow and weariness… He knows what we are going through and it is His will that we “enter into His rest.”

“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.” (Hebrews 4v9)

“Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.” (Hebrews 4v11)

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.”

“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched by the feelings of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4v14, 15&16)

Praise God for that Great High Priest who walked this earth before us and Who now reigns on high – a Great High Priest who loves us and knows our every need!

On This Day Two Hundred Years Ago…

April 27, 2016

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A little girl named Mary Jane Deck was born to John Deck (a postmaster in Bury St. Edmunds) and his wife. (The Deck’s ancestors were Huguenots who had previously fled France because of persecution.) I was unable to find out her first name but it has been recorded that this little girl’s mother, Mrs Deck, was “a praying woman.” Here was a lady who held the spiritual welfare of her children in higher esteem than anything else in life and here was a lady who had the marvellous joy of seeing all of her eight children led to the Lord and their lives consecrated in His service.

Within that family, the eldest son, James George Deck (1807-1884) was a well-known hymn writer, while his much younger sister Mary Jane (1816-1878) was writing poems and hymns from a very early age. Today, 27th April 2016, on the two-hundredth anniversary of her birth I think of how this little girl was inspired to write so many beautiful poems and hymns in her life – words which would be blessing to others long after her passing.  Her hymn, “The wanderer no more will roam” is one of those lovely compositions…

“The wanderer no more will roam,

The lost one to the fold hath come,

The prodigal is welcomed home,

O Lamb of God, in Thee!”

This is just the first verse of this seven-versed hymn, expressing the experience of the prodigal returning to the Father from ‘a far country.’

Indeed, sin has the potential to lead to a ‘far country,’ in the spiritual sense. How many have had the experience of wasting their “substance with riotous living” (Luke 15v13). Poverty stricken, they feel that they are unworthy even to return to the Father. They are in a ‘far country’ because they have distanced themselves from Him – but He (unlike many an earthly father) is still there for as long as this Day of Grace remains, waiting with outstretched arms; even when the prodigal makes those first tentative steps towards the Father, He has great love for him, running with compassion towards him and as the lovely Bible story tells us “he fell on his neck, and kissed him.” (Verse 20)

I love the words of Verse 24: “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” These words can also apply to backsliders (and indeed others who have never trusted the Lord at any time) who come to the Father down through the ages. “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2v1) Praise God, the spiritually dead can be made alive… “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2v13)

As I read the words of Mary Jane (married name “Walker”), I can see clearly that spiritual parallel she sketches, with regard to the prodigal son…

“Though clothed in rags, by sin defiled,

The Father hath embraced His child;

And I am pardoned, reconciled,

O Lamb of God, in Thee!

It is the Father’s joy to bless,

His love provides for me a dress,

A robe of spotless righteousness,

O lamb of God in Thee!”

Two hundred years ago today the life of a future hymn writer began, when Mary Jane was born into an already big family! But today I think of her mother, Mrs Deck and how she fervently prayed for her eight children. It is possible that her name is not recorded anywhere, except perhaps in some genealogy records which are only of interest to those who are her descendants. But by all accounts she was one of many loving mothers through the ages who have had a tremendous burden for the salvation of their children. Not one of the Deck children was born a Christian and who knows truly what their lives consisted of prior to the time when each one in turn came to be “pardoned, reconciled, O Lamb of God, in Thee.”

From reading the background to the Deck family history, I believe that both parents of Mary Jane prayed fervently for their children and praise God – they saw the fruit of those prayers. How wonderful to meet these dear souls in heaven and share how you read their story two hundred years later! Oh that the final words of Mary Jane Walker’s hymn would be ours – and those of our loved ones…

“Yea, in the fullness of His grace,

He puts me in the children’s place,

Where I shall gaze upon His face,

O Lamb of God, in Thee!

I cannot half His love express,

Yet, Lord, with joy my lips confess,

This blessed portion I possess,

O Lamb of God, in Thee!

And when I in Thy likeness shine,

The glory and the praise be Thine,

That everlasting joy is mine,

O Lamb of God in Thee!”

 

 

 

“Broken Purposes but Answered Prayers”

April 17, 2016

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I discovered this old book quite by accident one morning this week. Written by an English lady with the unusual name of “Anna Boobbyer,” I feel that I am going to find a wealth of spiritual treasure in this antiquarian volume with its old cloth cover! Under the title on the cover of the book are these words:

“Make use of me, my God.

Let me not be forgot,

A broken vessel cast aside

One whom thou needest not.”

The words somehow struck a chord with me. How easy it is to feel discouraged when you are weary and perhaps not feeling as optimistic about life as you once did. Ill health (or even just the aging process!) certainly has the potential to take its toll on your enthusiasm and then when this old life throws other problematic issues your way for good measure, well…

However, my eyes scanned the title page of the book. This book was in its third edition, with over 31,000 copies having been produced! On the very first page of chapter one, I read these words by the author… “I was only two-and-twenty, and in buoyant health and spirits, when in one short day, from mountain climbing, my bodily sufferings began; and my hopes, desires, and prayers for an active life in the Master’s service were utterly crushed, and “all my purposes were broken off,” like poor Job, when those sad words were wrung from his aching heart.” She has written… “it is forty years today (1893) since I became an invalid – for life, unless my heavenly Father should interpose, and heal me in my old age, as I am now sixty-three.”

Yet, as my eyes skim this book by a lady who was “confined to two rooms,” I see a wealth of experiences which, when shared, have the potential to touch hearts and be mightily used of the Lord. I began to think of some hymn writers who also suffered from ill health or were incapacitated in some way. Frances Ridley Havergal suffered much in her short life, surviving almost fatal typhoid in 1874. She said: “Pain as to God’s own children, is truly and really only blessing in disguise. It is but His chiselling, one of His engraving tools.” Frances trusted the Lord to save her at age fourteen and some years later, in 1873, declared: “I was shown that ‘the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin,’ and then it was made plain to me that he who cleansed me had power to keep me clean; so I just utterly yielded myself to Him and utterly trusted Him to keep me.” Despite the brevity of her life (for she died at forty-three) her numerous hymns, inspired by the Holy Spirit, continue to speak on to souls over a century later.

Another hymn writer (Fanny Crosby) was blind for her entire life, from the time that she was only six weeks old. She said: “It may have been a blunder on the physician’s part, but it was no mistake of God’s. I verily believe that it was God’s intention that I should live my days in physical darkness, so as to be better prepared to sing his praise.” For me her beautiful hymns had almost a heavenly perspective. Perhaps, because she had never been able to see the vain things of this life, her spiritual sight was intensified…

“Safe in the arms of Jesus,

Safe on His gentle breast,

There by His love o’ershadowed,

Sweetly my soul shall rest.

Hark, ‘tis the voice of angels,

Borne in a song to me,

Over the fields of glory,

Over the jasper sea.”

Prolific hymn writers and those in other areas of the Lord’s service have very often been subjected to what the rest of the world only sees as ‘terrible misfortune.’ Yet the ‘broken vessel’ is the one which the Master will use for His glory. I am sure there were times when Anna Boobbyer, Frances Ridley Havergal and Fanny Crosby shed silent tears but praise God He has “wiped away all tears from their eyes.”

What an encouragement to know that today the Lord can use the broken vessel mightily; our tears, born of dark experiences and recorded in poignant words, can live on for years to come; to encourage, convict and warm the hearts of other needy souls, perhaps long after we have departed this scene of time and “‘till He come.”