In an Age of Celebrities… Humility is Rare

February 5, 2019

The world is currently full of celebrities… both major and minor, thanks to the internet and popular culture. Men and women naturally love the applause and accolade of their fellow human beings but this is a phenomenon which should have no place in the Christian realm.

When one sees a well-known leader in the “Christian” world being lauded and honoured by thousands and often millions of cheering crowds, there is surely something terribly wrong. How concerning is the knowledge that there are “evangelical Christian” preachers out there who have become bathed in fame and fortune over the years! People revere the man and are not looking to the Saviour. Their personality, their charisma, their very presence gets in the way of the love, goodness and humility of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sadly, too, these seemingly great preachers can often be deceivers… “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! For so did their fathers unto the false prophets.” (Luke 6v26)

One evening I had just returned home from a poetry reading event (where I had felt like “a fish out of water”) when I stopped in my tracks in amazement, at the words of the verse of a hymn floating out of the kitchen: “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.”

“I will not boast in anything,

No gifts, no power, wisdom;

But I will boast in Jesus Christ,

His death and resurrection.

Why should I gain from His reward?

I cannot give an answer;

But this I know with all my heart –

His wounds have paid my ransom.”

It was as if this singing on the kitchen radio as I filled the kettle was just for me and my eyes filled with tears. I had earlier felt the ridicule of other writers but really I should never have expected to be accepted by the world…. I can only write for my Saviour; applause has no place in the life of the Christian; genuine and sincere encouragement from other Christians, perhaps – but not applause.

My participation at the open-air public event I had just attended was intended to reach others for “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ…” (Romans 1v16) But the words which the Lord gives those who write for Him are very out of place in this world. They don’t fit well with men’s many other philosophies as I have discovered – and Christian poetry is incongruous in a world of intellectual snobbery. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness…” (1Cor. 1v17) and yet I pray for those present that they will remember something later and be drawn to know the Saviour who loves them.

There are many older hymns than the above which echo these sentiments too. “When I survey the Wondrous Cross” by Isaac Watts is one of them…

“Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,

Save in the death of Christ my God:

All the vain things that charm me most,

I sacrifice them to His blood.”

Frances Ridley Havergal’s “Take my Life” is yet another…

“Take my silver and my gold;

Not a mite would I withhold;

Take my intellect, and use

Every power as Thou shalt choose.”

All that we do, say and write should surely be to His glory. In a world where the applause of men can be deafening, the standard for the Christian in this regard is to follow the Saviour’s example in all humility. “And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” (Matthew 23v12)

“…And the common people heard Him gladly.” (Mark 12v37) He owned nothing; “He had not where to lay His head” and when the streets were lined with palms, He rode on a donkey – not an amazing golden carriage drawn by great white horses or like in today’s world, where a “pastor” might have his private jet. Jesus said: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18v36) – and neither should ours be.

“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Galatians 6v14)

 

Advertisements

“My Word Shall Not Return Unto Me Void”…… On Sharing Tracts and Christian Literature

January 27, 2019

dscf6881

I have felt burdened in recent times to share the many tracts in my possession. Some of these I have written over the years, others have been given to me to distribute and some I have purchased a quantity of in the past. I am aware that for those who don’t know the Lord there is something very convicting about being handed a tract in the street, especially when they know the nature of what is being given to them. As for the Christian who distributes tracts… this is not an easy task.

Jesus said: “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9v26) If we love the Lord, have a burden for souls and want to distribute a convicting message to souls who are outside of Christ, then we must reach them as the Lord leads and directs us personally, as individuals.

We may not always feel led to distribute tracts at certain parades, festivals or crowded events where they are thrown everywhere and trampled underfoot; those in authority will instantly blame the tract distributor for the “litter,” although not all individuals at these events are like this. Some people feel that they should put tracts in letterboxes and others feel strongly that this should be more of a “one to one” activity, where they reach out to those they know, live beside, do business with, share a flat with – or work with, although our words of witness and our actions and reactions as Christians will sometimes play a larger role in this instance. This tract sharing activity may be extended to all sorts of people, some of whom we may only ever come in contact with once in our lives.

Whatever we feel about of all of this, one thing is sure – our own hearts and lives must be right with God, before we begin sharing His Word and we must also be convinced about the nature of the literature we are distributing. Not everyone feels happy about distributing certain types of tract; for example those with cartoons, or those which bring in doctrines which we are not happy about.

Reactions will vary. The worst reaction I have ever encountered is where someone I gave a leaflet to shredded it to pieces in front of me. Another instance was when my husband once left a tract in the glove compartment of a car we had hired on a Greek island. We had left that car back clean and in perfect order, with the same amount (if not more) of fuel in it as when we had received it. Subsequently we got a phone call to our hotel room. Someone from the hire company called us in a fury to wrongly accuse of us of all sorts of things he had no grounds for, regarding the car. We subsequently worked out that this employee was not Greek and, we believe, of the Muslim faith… Of the fact that the tract had somehow angered him greatly, we had no doubt.

Most tract recipients, who receive one directly, will just politely say: “No thank you,” or “thank you,” while hurriedly stuffing it into their pockets. I remember years ago giving out tracts at an open air rock concert, when I spotted a young relative of mine walking along there with some friends. When he spotted me engaged in this activity, he actually looked quite embarrassed and convicted. Who knows what may be achieved in the future because we have felt led to be in a certain place at a certain time!

It is good to use opportunities too, when travelling. I have often felt strongly led to leave tracts in unusual places, as the above photograph illustrates. I was walking once in a scenic area of Ireland when I discovered a little grotto of Roman Catholic significance with many pieces of idolatry left there. Here was an opportunity to leave the tract “This is my Story,” by ex-Roman Catholic priest, Henry Gregory Adams.

I believe it is true to say that there are apt tracts for specific occasions and not all tracts are suitable for particular occasions or individuals. I would not see the point, for example, in giving out the aforementioned tract at certain events in Northern Ireland, as many may agree with it – but be blind to their own need for salvation!

I once found a crumpled gospel tract thrown into a shopping trolley, picked it up, smoothed it out and put it in my handbag. A long time after that my husband and I were visiting a really old graveyard where we had the opportunity to talk to an elderly man about spiritual matters. He told us that since retirement he had an interest in history and had been travelling around, recording all the old graveyards in the rural areas of Ireland. He had joked that his wife had lectured him… “You’ll spend long enough in a graveyard without devoting the rest of your life walking around them!”

Although we talked with him, I also wanted to leave him with a tract and thought that I had none available. But then I remembered the one in my handbag… The person who threw it away into the shopping trolley probably thought: “Well, that’s the end of that…” But we must never forget that the Lord’s Word travels and touches other souls, even if it has been discarded. “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55v11)

May the Lord bless and guide, as His children seek to distribute His Word to souls young and old; souls that we may never encounter again in the unique journey of each of our lives… but souls that we would dearly love to meet again someday in heaven.

 

When My Father and My Mother Forsake Me, Then the Lord Will Take Me Up (Psalm 27v10)

January 16, 2019

20180629_151919

Just recently I have been reading about the experience of a lady who had been adopted and in later life had a yearning to find her biological parents. I believe that most people have this natural curiosity to discover who their birth parents are; she also had some health issues and wanted to know whether these were hereditary. This led to an initial contact with grandparents, who were delighted to hear from her – and later also with two brothers who were also initially glad to know about her. She discovered from her grandparents that her own parents later had married – which seemed wonderful and the best possible scenario. She now felt that she could contact her real mother and father who would be as welcoming as the rest of the family and be overjoyed to meet their only daughter.

Sadly this was not to be… they rejected her and wanted no contact whatsoever. Even her grandparents could not understand their attitude but both they and her brothers appeared to be strongly influenced by the reaction of the parents and in time made it clear that they had no wish for any further contact. The mother who had adopted her, loved her and raised her had also recently died, which distressed her terribly. Apart from her loving adoptive mother’s death, she said that this “second rejection,” as she saw it, was devastating for her.

Such stories are not unusual. This one is not set in my country but I have recently heard of many other similar stories here in Ireland where mothers have no wish to ever see or be in contact with the child that they gave birth to. On the other hand, there are many more stories of joyful reunions; these were often situations where mothers did not want to give up their children but were forced to do so by the prevailing power of the Roman Catholic system at the time. Such mothers were heartbroken when their babies were snatched away to be trafficked for adoption, with R.C. organisations being paid for the adoption. Indeed, many mothers searched for years for their children, some sadly dying, without ever having met them.

Nevertheless there are other stories which have come to my attention recently and these, although truly heart breaking from an initial glance, are surrounded by great hope, faith, blessing and victory. These are the stories of people, who having come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, are totally abandoned by family, friends and loved ones. But these souls look to the Lord for their every breath – He is more than life itself to them. They continue to love and pray for those who have rejected them even though in some instances their lives are in danger, if for example, they have left a system of belief such as Islam.

Jesus said: “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19v29) Of course, this must be read in context. The Lord never expected anyone to abandon their children, or indeed a husband or wife if they are already married but often those who are called into certain service for Him, are led to remain unmarried and without children and so they forsake that way of life for Him. And as regards material property, we of course hand this to the Lord, for Him to use as He sees fit.  There is also a sense in which, when we are wholly following the Lord, our lives being guided in the way that He would have us go, that we will be forsaken of everything that the world holds dear and unfortunately we may also be forsaken by once good friends, loved ones or even spouses and older children.

“Can a mother forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” (Isaiah 49v15)

What is your situation today? Do you feel that you have been denied by the very people who are responsible for your existence in this world? Well, there is Someone who loved you enough to die for you, even before you were ever born. Why not confess your sins (for we all have sinned) to the Lord Jesus Christ alone and put your trust in Him as Lord and Saviour? Believe me, you will find the greatest Friend for now and for eternity. He knows you, He loves you and your happiness and well-being in this life and the next… is His goal. “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.” (Isaiah 49v16)

Do you feel abandoned today, or ridiculed because you have chosen to follow the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour? Or could it be that you even feel in danger because you no longer want to be a part of something which you know is wrong? There is nothing in your life that the Lord Jesus Christ is not aware of – whoever you are or wherever you are. Remember that your times are in His hands and He will take care of every detail of your life, if you have committed it into His care.

Perhaps, on the other hand, you have had a loving family upbringing but still you may not know the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour. Life, even for those of us who have a good start in it, can be stormy to say the least. Why would you want to face those storms alone, without the power of the One who loved you and gave Himself for you? With this Captain at the helm – you can be certain of victory!

Always remember that He will reward you “an hundredfold” and you shall “inherit everlasting life” (Matthew 19v29) in the Presence of Someone who loved you so much that He gave His life for you, when you trust in Him as Lord and Saviour.

Whether you have forsaken material possessions for His sake, or whether those you love have forsaken you, there is indeed “a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18v24)

May the Lord bless you and meet you at the point of your need.

 

Sadly, Many Professing Christians Have Never Seen the Need to Read their Bibles Through

January 9, 2019

dscf9214

Sadly many have never actually read the Bible in its entirety, even though they would claim to have known the Lord for a very long time. “I just read bits and pieces of it every day,” someone told me once. Some also cling to certain doctrines because “their minister/pastor said so,” without reading the relevant verses prayerfully in the Word for themselves and continuing to pray fervently about the matter. It never ceases to amaze me how someone can leave a system like Roman Catholicism where personal Bible study is not encouraged and people follow a priest (and the oracles of the church) blindly – and then continue to follow the words of a pastor blindly, without studying the scriptures for themselves.

I have also been dismayed in recent times to note how many in a congregation will absorb and believe everything that is said in the pulpit. Unlike the believers in Berea who “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so,” (Acts 17v11) they accept every word without question.

I was at a conference in recent years where the speaker made some comment which was totally unscriptural. Glancing around the congregation in shock I could see that some were half asleep but no one raised an eyebrow or even seemed to notice what he had just said.

And how can we challenge or be a witness to those with false doctrines and those who are involved in cults if we are not familiar with the scriptures which clearly show basic truths such as the deity of Christ?

If someone loved you enough to actually give His only Son to die for you, would you not read all of the inspired letter that He had penned for you? Men have their own interpretations and ideas but only those humble souls who walk closely with the Lord will preach the truth in its entirety.

Admittedly the Bible is a very “long letter” – so long that it takes most people an entire year and more to get through it. Many take much longer, as they study, meditate, take notes and sometimes the Lord leads them to write something based on the scripture they have just read. This Great Book, containing many books should be the Christian’s guiding influence in all decisions he or she makes and in the very manner of their lives. I heard a pastor once say: “I’ve started a Bible study here as many people believe certain things – but they don’t know why they believe them, so maybe this should clarify matters.”

That worried me too, to be frank; do they believe something just because he has spoken it from the pulpit? If they cannot (like the Christians in Berea) see it for themselves in scriptures as they read prayerfully – this is dangerous.

I remember well my first little Bible. I had asked for it as one of my presents approaching the Christmas of 1977. At the time I wasn’t even a Christian but I had just read Milton’s “Paradise Lost” and I felt that I must read the Bible for its “literary value.” Little did I know that some months later, in August 1978, I would come under such strong conviction of sin, that this volume would change the direction of my life forever!

I have a large print Bible now for my study at home and a smaller Bible which I take to Christian meetings/churches where hopefully the truth will be preached, although those places are becoming fewer and fewer… “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” (1John 4v1)

There is an unparalleled joy in discovering something new in the scriptures every time we read through them. Really, I believe that our own personal quiet time and study of the Lord’s Word is much more important and crucial to the Christian’s growth than a communal Bible study.

And so my first little Bible (which is falling apart) is now contained in the gift box that my mother gave me all those years ago. One day far beyond earth’s clouds I’ll meet her, hug her and thank her for her love to me, for throughout many rolling years since I received this precious gift in December 1977, I have turned to it in times of bereavement, distress and yes, great joy. Now, my big print Bible means everything to me too.

On the inside I have scribbled a simple little rhythm from the heart, a poignant reminder of a tough time in my life…

I love to lean upon my Lord,

I have no help but Him,

And when I read His lovely Word,

My earthly fears grow dim.

“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.” (Acts 17v10-12)

Jesus said: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5v39)

 

Brighten The Corner Where You Are!

December 23, 2018

IMG-20181223-WA0005

With the passing of the winter solstice, I almost feel optimistically that I can already see the days getting longer with the promise of spring. Of course no one knows what sort of weather will be in store for us before the dawn of spring! And so it is with life itself, for no one knows what a year will hold, or indeed what life will hold for us before the dawning of that New Day when we are called Home or the Lord returns for His own. However, for those who have put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour – we can rest assured that “our times are in His Hands.”

I was considering the element of “light” just recently and how the Lord Jesus Christ was “a light of the Gentiles.” (Isaiah 42v6) The first 7 verses of this chapter are prophetic of His coming… “to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.” (Verse 7)

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus exhorts His followers to “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5v16)

While the rest of the world will curse the awful situations that mankind universally finds himself in, His true followers will use such situations to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2Peter 3v18) and to let their lights “so shine before men.”

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.” (Matthew 5v14) Each day that the Lord gives His children is yet another opportunity to “brighten the corner where we are.” Sometimes it may simply be to patiently support and care for someone in our own homes, or just be there for someone who is going through tumultuous times, or offering kind and loving words of witness to a neighbour or someone we meet in daily life, or speaking to souls in a hospital waiting room. As the years go by, we may not be in a position to launch out to foreign fields to reach the lost but “we can brighten the corner where we are.”

In fact we must brighten the corner where we are, wherever the Lord has placed us; making use of whatever opportunities, situations we find ourselves in, or talents that the Lord has bestowed upon us to reach others. “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights of the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.” (Philippians 2v15&16)

Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do,

Do not wait to shed your light afar;

To the many duties ever near you now be true,

Brighten the corner where you are.

 

Brighten the corner where you are!

Brighten the corner where you are!

Someone far from harbour you may guide across the bar;

Brighten the corner where you are!

 

Just above are clouded skies that you may help to clear,

Let not narrow self your way debar;

Though into one heart alone may fall your song of cheer,

Brighten the corner where you are.

 

Here for all your talent you may surely find a need,

Here reflect the bright and Morning Star;

Even from your humble hand the Bread of Life may feed,

Brighten the corner where you are.

 

© Ina Duley Ogdon (1872-1964)

 

Link to this hymn: https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/8652

Have You Any Room For Jesus?

December 10, 2018

DSCF7956

I was recently listening to the story of Brian Gault, who was a victim of the Thalidomide drug in the early 1960’s. Around that era expectant mothers were given this so called “miracle drug” to combat morning sickness and as a result many other children like Brian were sadly born without legs or arms at that time. It was lovely to hear his testimony of coming to know the Lord as Saviour, after all the bullying and hardship he had endured as a child with no arms. Praise God, he had made room in his heart for Jesus… and that room is now filled with love, joy and peace, instead of bitterness and anger about his situation.

How the love of God transforms the humble place when He fills it with His Presence! This, His Presence will never find its abode in the heart that is full of the things of this world. The humble, quiet manger became filled with the Presence of God. There was no room for Him in the inn… a place full of the distractions of this world.

Another interesting testimony came to my notice recently: that of the hymn writer Daniel Webster Whittle (1840-1901), who rose to the rank of major in the American civil war. Like Brian Gault, Daniel was disabled but his one missing arm was as a result of combat. While in a prisoner of war camp recovering from his wounds, Daniel looked for something to read and found a New Testament. Although under conviction from the words he read, he was still reluctant to accept the Lord into his heart. A short time later an orderly approached him, saying that a dying prisoner wanted someone to pray with him. The orderly said that he assumed that Daniel was a Christian as he had watched him “reading his Bible.” Finally, Daniel agreed and miraculously he confessed his own sins and asked the Lord into his heart, before praying earnestly with the dying young soldier. In his own words he said: “I cannot but believe that God, who used him to bring me to the Saviour, used me to lead him to trust Christ’s precious blood and find pardon. I hope to meet him in heaven.” What a wonderful miracle of two lives transformed in one “fell swoop!”

Praise God, indeed, for such stories and testimonies. There is no limit to what the Lord can do with a life that is filled with His Presence. Brian Gault now travels extensively, speaking at meetings and churches, his DVD’s making a practical difference in the lives of disabled children and adults and his testimony to God’s grace in his own life touches the lives of individuals whoever or wherever they are.

And Daniel Webster Whittle’s humbled, repentant heart was touched by the Lord to such an extent that he went on to write at least 130 beautiful hymns. After his conversion experience he said that while at work, he “went into the vault and in the dead silence of the quietest places I gave my life to my Heavenly Father to use as He would.” The quiet, humble manger is filled with the Lord’s Presence…

I love his hymn… “Sin no More,” the chorus of which goes…

“Sin no more, thy soul is free,

Christ has died to ransom thee;

Sing the message o’er and o’er,

Christ forgives thee, “Sin no more.”

 

His hymn “Have you any room for Jesus?” is a convicting one, reminding us that “room for pleasure and room for business” should never be allowed to take the place of His Presence in our lives…

It is somehow fitting that the great Saviour of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ, should be born in the humblest of abodes – one that was emptied of the trappings of this world…

 

Have you any room for Jesus,

He who bore your load of sin?

As He knocks and asks admission,

Sinners, will you let Him in?

 

Room for Jesus, King of glory!

Hasten now His Word obey;

Swing the heart’s door widely open,

Bid Him enter while you may.

 

Room for pleasure, room for business,

But for Christ the Crucified,

Not a place that He can enter,

In the heart for which He died?

 

Have you any room for Jesus,

As in grace He calls again?

O today is time accepted,

Tomorrow you may call in vain.

 

Room and time now give to Jesus,

Soon will pass God’s Day of Grace;

Soon thy heart left cold and silent,

And thy Saviour’s pleading cease.

 

 

“History of Mission Halls throughout Northern Ireland” by Judith Cole

November 22, 2018

DSC_0148

Some time ago I received a gift of this beautiful, large hardcover book in the post from the author, Judith Cole. Thank you so much Judith! This arrived on a morning when I was feeling particularly “down” under present circumstances – but delighted when the smiling postman handed me the parcel.

Judith initially made contact with me back in August 2014, when I first wrote about the “Mission Halls of Ireland” in my blog, having discovered a little mission hall in the Mourne Mountains. I was subsequently really interested when Judith told me that she was working on the book about mission halls in Northern Ireland. Published in 2017, this full colour volume, with its lovely evocative photographs of mission halls throughout the province would make an excellent seasonal, birthday or indeed a gift for any occasion.

For me, personally, the images in the book bring back nostalgic and fond memories of attending old mission halls over the years and I pray that mission halls will continue to be used in widespread communities, as I feel that they still very much serve as an essential witness to God’s redeeming love.

As I have said in my previous blog: “above all the mission hall has a tradition of transcending denominationalism and bringing souls together in a spirit of love and unity. They were once a ‘reservoir’ in the spiritual sense; many having had their roots in the 1859 Revival.” Indeed, I pray that they will continue to be this spiritual reservoir.

One such “reservoir” was “Sleepy Valley Mission Hall” near the village of Richhill in Northern Ireland. I remember giving my testimony many years ago in this little hall and I also remember the Lord speaking to me as a child here when I attended Sunday afternoon meetings for children. How well I recall that picture of Jesus knocking on a door which spoke to my young heart! Please see my blog: “Memories of Sleepy Valley Mission Hall – & Reflections on My Unchanging Saviour,” which was adapted from an article that I wrote about the history of this mission hall for the Ulster Gazette in 2003.

However, a new housing development around 15 years ago meant that there has been absolutely no trace of the little hall since then and of course, from a photographic point of view, nothing but a private housing complex on view! Eventually there were no meetings held in this mission hall but a little weekly prayer meeting continued and I can vouch for the fact that the very last prayer meeting to be held there was on Tuesday 11th March, 2003 and I know that the Woodhouse family, my father and others were in attendance. The meetings ceased in “Sleepy Valley” as the mission hall was demolished by those who had purchased the land for new houses. However, prayer continued in an old cottage adjoining the home of Mr and Mrs Harold Irwin until some years ago; the couple are now elderly and no longer living at home.

We recently called at the nursing home where they now live and it was a joy to pray with them and to hear Mr Irwin (at 96) suddenly burst out singing one of the familiar old hymns. My husband and I joined in and the fellowship was good! Times have changed and some of the old Mission Halls photographed in Judith’s lovely book have been abandoned but “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13v8) Old familiar faces have indeed left this scene of time and sometimes we may feel that sincere places of worship are on the decrease… but my Saviour never changes and the need of mankind remains the same.

Judith has sensitively documented and portrayed over 100 mission halls, their history, the people connected with them and the well-loved familiar images associated with them in a very artistic way. This is truly a book to treasure, an heirloom of historical significance but also, I feel, something deeper lies within its pages…

Here, I feel, is a challenge in many ways to professing Christians, to “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die…” (Revelation 3v2) As the old hymn goes…

“Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day:

Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away,

Change and decay in all around I see:

O thou who changest not, abide with me!”

I would have no hesitation in recommending this lovely full colour volume, “History of Mission Halls throughout Northern Ireland” (362 pages, published by Ambassador Books & Media) to anyone thinking of purchasing it.

 

Remembering the Sacrifice – and the Victory

November 10, 2018

DSCF4130

I discovered a little article in recent times concerning the “Souls family,” which I feel is very relevant on a weekend in which we remember the dead of two World Wars and later conflicts. On this Remembrance Sunday in particular, widespread events will be held to mark the centenary of the First World War.

It is also 100 years since Arthur Souls and Alfred Souls (twins aged 30) both lost their lives in Flanders fields. This was two years after the death of their brothers: Albert, Frederick and Walter Souls who were all killed in action in 1916. Five brothers from the one household… my heart goes out to their mother and father, Annie and William Souls (humble English country folk) who must have endured such grief. The couple had a family of six healthy sons in total and it is heart-breaking to think that five of their boys were killed in this way. Upon research I discovered that Annie Souls never stood again for the anthem “God Save the King” but her terrible grief was further compounded when their youngest surviving son died from meningitis.

The awful reality is, though, that many young people today know little about what certain wars were all about and the enormous sacrifices that were made. War would appear senseless and yet most of us realise that democracies must be protected from certain tyrants who rise up in every era (and in all parts of the world) to threaten those democracies that we take for granted.

It is respectful to remember both the sacrifices that were made in these wars and those who made them… but how much more should we honour the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who made the ultimate sacrifice ever in the history of mankind? “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1Peter 2v24)

Wars and conflicts through the ages have resulted in heartbreak for mothers and fathers, husbands, wives and children but when the man Christ Jesus “offered one sacrifice for sins for ever” he arose in glorious victory, defeating the greatest enemy that mankind has ever had to face – forever. He heals the broken hearted and He comforts the bereaved in their darkest hours, if only they would acknowledge their need of Him, His sacrifice for them – and trust Him to save them.

The greatest enemy we will ever have to face (and the father of all tyrants in this world who arise to distress us) has permanently been defeated by the Lord Jesus Christ and His unspeakable sacrifice. Praise God, “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1Corintinians 15v54)

The saved can say… “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.” (1 Corinthians 15v55-57)

This King of Kings and Lord of Lords, of whom it is said: “Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come,” (Ephesians 1v21) lives to heal the wounded soul and gives us the victory over sin and death and hell.

How can we remember and honour His great sacrifice? For those who don’t know Him…. By acknowledging their sins and trusting in Him to cleanse them from all unrighteousness (1 John 1v9) and trusting their future lives into His care. And for those who walk the narrow path, to be “stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1Corinthians 15v58)

Today we have “wars and rumours of war” but it is acknowledged that an outright “Third World War” could be a nuclear war, resulting in the end of life as we know it on the universe today. To all He says…

“Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” (Matthew 24v44)

“How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation….?” (Hebrews 2v3)

 

Sunflowers Still Blooming in November!

November 3, 2018

DSC_0877

“Those sunflowers will never grow,” someone told my daughter when she planted them. “They’ve been planted too late and many storms are forecast. It’s just impossible.” But miraculously, not only did they come out in full bloom but they are still standing after several storms; they have survived and we are now into November. Strong trees have fallen but the row of sunflowers have stood resolute throughout fierce gales and dashing rain. Only one fell, which perhaps had not been properly rooted. There is a spiritual lesson there somewhere…

This little encouraging event is synonymous with another much more serious event that has been going on in our lives. If sunflowers can stand through three major storms, then anything is possible. Indeed, as the old Wesleyan hymn goes… “All things are possible to him, that can in Jesus name believe.” If, as this hymn describes, the Lord can so transform our lives, not only in the new birth experience but to the extent where sin shall not have dominion over us, (Romans 6v14), then “all things are possible to me.”

Every new day in our lives is a miracle in itself. As the days draw in and winter lies ahead, inevitably the sunflowers will die – but their seeds are being used for something really good and beneficial. I remember my father saying… “There is no telling what the Lord can do with a life that has been totally consecrated to Him.” In Romans 5v3-5 we are told: “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

I prayed that the sunflowers would grow – because it would have a deeper meaning for me. Not only did they bloom but they grew tall and withstood the storms. Just as I stood, opened-mouthed with wonder at the sight of the sunflowers still in full bloom despite the elements, people are watching those who know the Lord; watching their reactions to the full blown storms of life. “How can they bear it?” they ask themselves. And they look for the answer – and we need to reach them with it.

Praise God…

“All things are possible to God;

To Christ the power of God in me;

Now shed Thy mighty Self abroad,

Let me no longer live, but Thee;

Give me this hour in Thee to prove

The sweet omnipotence of love.”

 

(Charles Wesley)

 

 

The Lord Can Save By Many – Or By Few…

October 21, 2018

DSCF8729

In my current daily Bible readings the Lord has spoken to me three times about a certain serious situation that I am praying about. The first reading was in Judges 7v7 where I read: “And the Lord said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Mid-i-a-nites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place.” We have here the well know story of how Gideon’s army was whittled down and how they fought against the vast armies of the Mid-i-a-nites and the A-mal-ek-ites, “like grasshoppers for multitude.” But the Lord was with Gideon and his army and so they won the day.

Days later I had moved on to 1Samuel 14v6 where Jonathan says: “it may be that the Lord will work for us; for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few.” In this account Jonathan (without telling his father Saul) decides to attack the garrison of the Philistines, with his young armour bearer. In this chapter I am very aware of Jonathan’s courage and faith – and the fact that Saul lacks faith and is harsh with his people, denying them sustenance as they go into battle. But ultimately, because of only the young man Jonathan setting out in faith we learn that “the Lord saved Israel that day.” (1Samuel 14v23) This was a miracle given that in those days “there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears: But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock.” (1Samuel 13v19&20) Therefore, we see the crazy situation where Israel is depending on the enemy for proper weapons… but the Lord overruled for He was with Jonathan and his young armour bearer.

A short time later I am reading the words of David to Goliath, the giant Philistine in 1Samuel 17v47: “And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands.” We learn that “when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled.” (1Samuel 17v51) Again, against seemingly impossible odds, a young boy wins the day because the Lord is with him.

Throughout scriptures we see that the Lord will choose the few, the humble, the youngest, the least, the smallest… to triumph in battles and conflicts, for He wants men not to glory in men – but to give God the glory. This can be seen in our personal lives too, in the days in which we live. Imagine a situation where someone who has been diagnosed with something which requires aggressive treatment discovers that he or she is reacting badly to every treatment given… so much so that the medical professionals involved, puzzled, cannot continue with the treatment plan. To believe that the Lord can overrule in this situation – and save by the least or the minimum is easier said than done…. Yet we walk each day by faith in the knowledge that He, our loving Creator, has known it all from the beginning to the end, long before we ever walked this earth.

David the shepherd, warrior, psalmist, musician and king later declared: “the righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” (Psalm 34v17)

Today we can be assured as we face our own “giants,” that if the Lord of Gideon, Jonathan, Samuel and David is our Lord, then He is with us in our battles. And when He is with us, all things will work together for our good for us.  “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye,” He says. (Psalm 32v8)

“But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee,” (Psalm 43v1&2)

Praise God… “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Se-lah.” (Psalm 46v11)